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March 20, 2002

IMO, IACS move on bulker safety

IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil has highlighted the need for widespread and concerted efforts to improve bulk carrier safety.

Speaking at the opening of the 45th session of the IMO Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment (DE), O'Neil said, "Bulk Carrier Safety has been a priority on our agenda for over ten years now and, while certain improvements have been introduced, the work has not been finalized, as we are regrettably reminded from time to time by the continuing loss of bulkers."

He added, "I would therefore encourage, once again, all parties concerned - Governments, industry and technical organizations - to work in unison, not in an isolated manner, to bring the issue to a positive conclusion as soon as possible." This remark has been seen as critical of last week's decision by IACS, the International Association of Classification Societies, to unilaterally announce its own package of measures to enhance the safety of existing bulkers.

Among other items on its agenda, the the IMO ship design and equipment panel has been requested by the Maritime Safety Committee to work on a number of tasks related to bulker safety that emerged from the recommendations of the U.K.'s re-opened formal investigation (RFI) into the loss of the m.v. Derbyshire.

The panel will be looking at alternative means of sealing up anchor chain pipes to prevent water entry and whether access to chain lockers should be by bolted manholes and not doors. It will also be considering a recommendation that the installation of a level monitoring system in the spaces forward of the collision bulkhead be made mandatory on all capesize bulk carriers and the need for an independent pumping system for such spaces.

The Sub-Committee will also address the idea that classification societies should require shipowners to maintain on board and ashore as-built construction drawings and other plans showing subsequent structural alterations, with the aim of helping shipowners to develop an effective and comprehensive maintenance programme for their ships.

This work has been designated a high-priority item in the sub-committee's work program and given a target completion date of 2002.

What IACS requires

IACS, the International Association of Classification Societies, last week unveiled its own new requirements to enhance the safety of bulk carriers. Some of them appear to preempt matters being discussed by the IMO panel.

IACS Chairman Igor Ponomarev said the measures are primarily aimed at existing bulk carriers. He said that, among other things, they would accelerate the schedule for strengthening of the transverse corrugated bulkhead and double bottom of a bulker's foremost cargo hold, address the strength of the side structure in cargo holds, increase requirements for forward hatch covers, require the installation of improved bulwarks or breakwaters when the ships are not fitted with a forecastle, and would further increase the requirements of the IACS Enhanced Survey Programme (ESP) earlier in the service life of these ships.

"Bulk carrier safety is our central priority for 2002," he declared. Besides implementing last week's measures, IACS objectives include completing its reassessment of strength requirements for hatch cover scantlings a key recommendation of the report of the reopened U.K. inquiry into the loss of the Derbyshire. IACS, said Ponomarev, is also "pursuing a rapid and successful conclusion of its recently commenced work to improve the side structure integrity of existing bulk carriers."

Ponamarev said a number of measures in its new package of requirements for existing bulk carriers follow through on the risk control options set out in the IACS Formal Safety Assessment study of fore-end watertight integrity, submitted to IMO in January of last year. The new measures apply to existing vessels with a length of 150 m or greater, although some will also apply to smaller vessels and, in certain cases, to new vessels.

The new requirements for existing ships consist of two sets of actions.

The first set, consisting of three measures, has been adopted and will take effect on January 1, 2003:

  1. Earlier implementation of SOLAS Chapter XII requirements. The objective is to bring forward the reinforcement of the corrugated transverse bulkhead between No.1 and No.2 holds and the double bottom of No. 1 hold. This is now to be complied with at 10 years for vessels under 10 as of July 1, 2003 and at the due date of the next Intermediate or Special Survey (whichever comes first) after 1 July 2003 for vessels of 10-15 years of age as of July 1, 2003. Previously, these requirements were applied at 15 years. The changes are introduced through the adoption of a new revision of IACS UR S23, which covers the early implementation of the already existing IACS UR S19 and UR S22 for existing single side skin bulk carriers.
  2. Adoption of a new revision of UR Z10.2 (Hull Surveys of Bulk Carriers). This amended Unified Requirement now extends ESP requirements for close-up surveys at Special Survey No.2 and also requires Intermediate Surveys of bulk carriers of 10-15 years of age to have essentially the same scope as Special Survey No.2.
  3. Extended application of IACS' UR S24, requiring the installation of water ingress detection and alarms in all cargo holds of existing bulk carriers, as well as newbuildings.

The remaining five measures, to be introduced in the second phase of actions towards existing bulk carriers, are under development. The target is to complete the requirements in time to give owners sufficient notice to plan for and implement the modifications by the due date of the next Intermediate or Special Survey commenced on or after January 1, 2003.

Those measures are:

  1. Requirements for the installation of an improved bulwark or breakwater on existing bulk carriers when not fitted with a forecastle, and a forecastle on new vessels, to provide more protection for forward hatches and fore-deck fittings.
  2. Requirements to increase the integrity of fore-deck fittings on existing and new bulk carriers, to resist green water loading.
  3. Implementation of hatch cover requirements within the forward 0.25 L of existing vessels that are generally equivalent to UR S21 requirements for new vessels. UR S21 is currently under review for revision in light of the findings of further model tests carried out by the UK with input from IACS in conjunction with the findings of the RFI on the loss of the Derbyshire.
  4. Implementation of requirements for the strength of side shell frames of existing vessels taking into consideration IACS UR S12, which today is applicable only for side frames of new bulk carriers.
  5. Fitting of water ingress detection and alarms for spaces forward of the cargo area. IACS has established a Fast Project Team to address measures 4, 6 and 7. It is intended tocomplete measure 7 by end-July 2002 and measures 4 and 6 by end-September 2002.

Detailing of measures 8 and 5 are scheduled to be completed by end-March and end-June 2002 respectively