New requirements for free fall lifeboats will enhance safety during drills


New guidelines have been agreed on how to simulate launching of free fall lifeboats carried out during drills. The aim is to train crew in the free fall release procedure of free fall lifeboats, without the physical activation of the release mechanism.

BIMCO attended the 4th session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE 4), which was held in London from 20 to 24 March 2017. This is a short summary of the main issues from the meeting:

Simulated launching of free fall lifeboats

SSE 4 discussed the draft MSC circular on Guidelines on safety during abandon ship drills using free fall lifeboats and the Guidelines for developing operation and maintenance manuals for lifeboat systems (MSC.1/Circ.1205). The industry paper (SSE 4/4) which aimed to clarify the definition of simulated launching of freefall lifeboats was used as the basis for discussion.

It is essential that seafarers are familiar with the life-saving appliances on board their ships and that they are confident that the appliances provided for their safety, will work and will be effective in an emergency. And it is paramount that the drills can be done without risk to the seafarers.

The guidelines contain information on how to simulate launching carried out during drills, in accordance with SOLAS regulation III/19. This is a means of training the crew in the free-fall release procedure of free fall lifeboats without the physical activation of the release mechanism. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a basic outline of essential steps to safely carry out simulated launching. In this regard, the testing of the release system should be done separately and not carried out during simulated launch drills.

SSE 4 decided that further development of the guidelines for simulated launching may be needed and thus should be prepared at a later stage. It was also agreed, that the actual testing of lifeboats was outside the scope of the guidelines. The new guidelines will be submitted to MSC 98 in June for approval.

Development of a new framework of requirements for life-saving appliances (LSA)

SSE 4 further developed the new goal-based standards framework of requirements for ship's life-saving appliances, as their input to MSC 98. MSC will then consider how to proceed with the development of functional requirements and expected performance for SOLAS chapter III.

The sub-committee agreed on the draft goals and functional requirements but were not able, at this stage of the development, to fully deliver quantifiable expected performances. It is the first time that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has used the GBS framework for a full chapter of SOLAS, thus the process cannot be rushed.

There were potential gaps in the current list of functional requirements on specific regulations of SOLAS chapter III, namely in:

  • regulations III/4 on evaluation, testing and approval of life-saving appliances and arrangements
  • regulation 5 on production tests
  • regulation 34 referring to the LSA Code
  • regulation 36 on instructions for on-board maintenance and
  • regulation 38 on alternative design and arrangements.

Whereas regulation III/36 was covered by the current functional requirement number 1, saying that “all life-saving appliances should be in a state of readiness”, SSE 4 considered that regulations III/4, 5, 34 and 38 were of a more generic nature. It was, therefore, not appropriate to assign these regulations to any particular functional requirements and associated expected performance.

The development will continue at SSE 5 and BIMCO will monitor the work.

Requirements for onboard lifting appliances and winches

Based on the work of a correspondence group, SSE 4 further developed draft goals and functional requirements suitable for onboard lifting appliances and winches. A fair amount of time was used to discuss new SOLAS requirements for lifting appliances.

Lifting appliances, in this regard, means any load-handling appliance installed on board a ship used for suspending, raising or lowering loads or moving loads from one position to another while they are suspended or supported. This covers quite a lot of installations on board. Loose gear and anchor handling winches (for deploying, recovering and repositioning anchors and mooring lines in subsea operations) will be covered by the new regulation. The regulation is expected to be applicable to both new and existing ships and will not be applicable to eg cranes, with a low safe working load still to be determined.

Goals and functional requirements were also drafted. They will cover the design, fabrication and construction for new installations; as well as procedures for routine inspection, maintenance and operation of onboard lifting appliances and winches.

More work needs to be done and BIMCO will participate in the correspondence group that will deliver a report to the next session of the sub-committee.

Develop new requirements for ventilation of survival crafts

SSE 4 considered methods and criteria for improving the microclimate inside totally enclosed lifeboats. Currently, SOLAS and the LSA Code lack specific requirements for ventilation in totally enclosed lifeboats. This has caused severe discomfort for seafarers due to, for example, high temperatures and concentration of carbon dioxide.

It is important to note that for partially enclosed lifeboats, paragraph of the LSA Code requires “specific arrangements” in the canopy entrances, in order to provide ventilation in these lifeboats. However, the LSA Code does not contain any ventilation requirements applicable to totally enclosed lifeboats.

Regarding methods of ventilation, ie active versus passive ventilation, the sub-committee agreed not to exclude passive ventilation, provided that passive ventilation meets sufficient ventilation performance.

Consequential work related to the new Polar Code

SSE 4 considered consequential work related to the new Polar Code to address any additional testing and performance standards relating to life-saving appliances and arrangements on board ships that operate in polar waters. It was not decided how the application would be added to the existing instruments, ie a new chapter in the LSA Code and a new section in resolution MSC.81(70)?
A work plan was agreed with a view towards finalisation and adoption in 2020.

Shipboard escape route signs

SSE 4 also decided to bring the new ISO standard 24409 series of shipboard escape route signs to the attention of shipowners, ship operators, and shipmasters. The new common standard awaits IMO Assembly approval in 2018. However, all parties may use the new shipboard signage, on a voluntary basis, in compliance with the relevant requirements of SOLAS chapters II-2 and III.

Existing ships may still use the current sign (resolution A.760(18)), as amended, for shipboard signage.

IACS Unified Interpretations

A number of IACS submissions had been forwarded to the meeting to decide if they should become IMO unified interpretations (UI). Subject to approval by MSC 98 later this year, SSE 4 agreed on:

  • SSE 4 reviewed provisions relating to inert gas systems on tankers, especially interpretations regarding the automatic shutdown of the inert gas system and its component parts; operational status of valves for inert gas to cargo tanks; indication of the operational status of the inert gas system, and the term "independent alarm system".All the proposed interpretations were agreed.
  • Regarding the unified interpretation of SOLAS chapter II-2 on the number and arrangement of portable fire extinguishers on board ships (MSC.1/Circ.1275) it was decided to clarify the current wording: "No point if space is more than 20 m walking distance from an extinguisher at each deck level"; and replace with the words, "Spaced not more than 20 m apart on both sides of the space at each deck level in each hold or compartment where vehicles are carried".
  • SSE 4 also considered installation of manually operated call points (so-called MOCPs) on cargo ships. Several interpretations were raised, all related to different design arrangements. The arrangement of MOCPs outside the accommodation block of cargo ships was discussed, but as this practise has been used in many existing cargo ships, no unified interpretation was needed. In the case of the arrangement of MOCPs, within accommodation spaces, it was emphasised that no part of the corridor should be more than 20 m from a MOCP.
Jeppe Skovbakke Juhl
in Copenhagen, DK


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