The start of the new year sees the entrance into force of a number of amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and the Load Lines Protocol.
These modifications principally affect matters such as passenger ship safety; the testing of free-fall lifeboats; minimum safe manning levels; prohibition of blending of bulk liquid cargoes onboard; the revised MARPOL Annex III; the establishment of the new United States Caribbean Sea Emission Control Area; and the Winter Seasonal Zone off the southern tip of Africa.
Six SOLAS amendments from May 2012 enter into force
– Amendment to regulation II-1/8-1. Introduction of a mandatory requirement for new passenger ships to have either onboard stability computers or shore-based support, for the purpose of providing operational information to the Master for safe return to port after a flooding accident.
– Amendment to regulation III/20.11.2 regarding the testing of free-fall lifeboats, to require that the operational testing of free-fall lifeboat release systems shall be performed either by free-fall launch with only the operating crew on board or by a simulated launching.
– Amendment to chapter V to add a new regulation, V/14, on ships’ minimum manning. Thus, following a transparent procedure, Administrations will establish appropriate minimum safe manning levels in order to issue a safe manning document as evidence of the minimum safe manning considered necessary on ships.
– Amendment to chapter VI to add a new regulation VI/5-2, to prohibit the blending of bulk liquid cargoes during the sea voyage and to prohibit production processes.
– Amendment to chapter VII to replace regulation 4 on the transport of dangerous goods in packaged form. As of now, the information relating to this type of transport and the container loading certificate must meet the rules set out in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG).
– Amendment to regulation XI-1/2 on enhanced surveys, which, in order to improve maritime safety, makes mandatory the International Code on the Enhanced Programme of Inspections during Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers, 2011 (2011 ESP Code).
New amendments to MARPOL, October 2010 and other modifications
These include changes to the Annex III regulations for the prevention of pollution by harmful substances carried in packaged form, in line with the update to the IMDG Code.
Regarding air pollution, the amendment to Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention approved in July 2011, establishes stricter controls on emissions of Sulphur oxide (SOx), Nitrogen oxide (NOx) and Particulate Matter (PM) for those ships that operate in certain waters adjacent to the coasts of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.
Finally, regulation 47 of the Load Lines Protocol has been amended to shift the Winter Seasonal Zone fifty miles south of its previous limit, taken from the southernmost tip of Africa.