IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), meeting at the Organization's London Headquarters for its 91st session from 26 to 30 November 2012, agreed that rules to require passenger safety drills to take place prior to, or immediately upon, departure should be made mandatory, in the wake of the Costa Concordia incident.
The Committee approved draft amendments to chapter III (Life-saving appliances and arrangements) of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to require musters of newly embarked passengers prior to or immediately upon departure, instead of “within 24 hours”, as stated in the current regulations, for a ship engaged on a voyage where passengers are scheduled to be on board for more than 24 hours. The draft amendments will now be circulated for consideration, with a view to adoption, at the next session, MSC 92, in June 2013. They could enter into force at the end of 2014.
The Committee also agreed a revised circular on recommended operational measures, prior to the adoption of any mandatory measures following the analysis of the official marine accident investigation report into the loss of the Costa Concordia.
The revised recommended measures (which will update MSC.1/Circ.1446, agreed at the last session) include: additional guidance on common elements to be included in passenger muster and emergency instructions; recommending that the nationality of each person on board is recorded; guidance on lifeboat loading for training purposes; and that companies owning and/or operating passenger ships and the ship’s Master should take steps to ensure that changes to the voyage plan are consistent with Company policies.
The recommended voluntary measures agreed at the last session remain in place, including:
• carrying additional lifejackets, to be readily accessible in public spaces, at the muster/assembly stations, on deck or in lifeboats, so that in the event of an emergency passengers need not return to their cabins to retrieve the lifejacket stored there;
• reviewing the adequacy of the dissemination and communication of the emergency instructions on board ships;
• carrying out the muster for embarking passengers prior to departure from every port of embarkation, if the duration is 24 hours or more;
• limiting access to the bridge to those with operational or operationally related functions, during any period of restricted manoeuvring, or while manoeuvring in conditions that the master or company bridge procedures/policy deems to require increased vigilance (e.g. arrival/departure from port, heavy traffic, poor visibility); and
• ensuring that the ship's voyage plan has taken into account IMO’s Guidelines for voyage planning, and, if appropriate, Guidelines on voyage planning for passenger ships operating in remote areas.
The action plan for long-term work on passenger ship safety, agreed at the last session was also updated, to include additional items on the review of SOLAS regulation III/27, to add the nationality of all persons on board (current regulations already require a count of all passengers and information on their names and gender, distinguishing between adults, children and infants; and information on any passengers requiring special assistance, for search and rescue purposes). Also included in the action plan is a review of resolution A.893(21) Guidelines for voyage planning.
The MSC also adopted amendments to SOLAS regulation III/17-1 to require ships to have plans and procedures to recover persons from the water, as well as related Guidelines for development of plans and procedures for recovery of persons from the water. Also, a related MSC resolution on Implementation of SOLAS regulation III/17-1 to ships other than those engaged in international voyages was adopted. The amendments had been drafted previously and approved at the last session.
The Committee also agreed to include “Passage Ship Training” on the provisional agenda of the Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW 45).
The Government of Italy provided the MSC with the preliminary findings of its on-going investigations into the Costa Concordia. The final casualty investigation report is expected to follow later. IMO is represented, as an observer, on the body overseeing the casualty investigation.