Maritime Safety Committee Moves on Fuel Safety, Autonomy, E-Nav

MSC 101

The IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 101 session, was held June 5-14, with oil fuel safety, autonomous shipping, e-navigation and ferry safety featuring in the outcomes.

Fuel Safety

Following discussion on ship safety issues relating to the implementation of the 0.50 percent sulfur cap, the MSC adopted a resolution providing recommended interim measures to enhance the safety of ships relating to the use of the new blends of oil fuel expected. It recommends that SOLAS contracting governments take action against fuel suppliers where oil fuel suppliers delivered oil fuel failing to meet the requirements specified in SOLAS regulation II-2/4.2.1, taking into account regulation 18.9.6 of MARPOL Annex VI. Governments should also notify the IMO so the information can be disseminated.

The MSC also endorsed an action plan to further consider mandatory requirements relating to the flashpoint of oil fuel, with a view to finalizing such measures by MSC 104 (2021). This could include mandatory documentation of the flashpoint of the actual fuel batch when bunkering.

The MSC also adopted amendments to parts A and A-1 of the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), including those relating to regulations on loading limit for liquefied gas fuel tanks, regulations for fuel distribution outside of machinery space, regulations for internal combustion engines of piston type and fire protection for fuel storage hold space; and amendments relating to the protection of the fuel supply for liquefied gas fuel tanks, aimed at preventing explosions. (Expected entry into force: January 1, 2024)   

Cargo Safety

A comprehensive set of amendments were adopted to the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code), including the revised chapters 17 (Summary of minimum requirements), 18 (List of products to which the code does not apply), 19 (Index of Products Carried in Bulk) and 21 (Criteria for assigning carriage requirements for products subject to the IBC Code). (Expected entry into force: January 1, 2021)
Amendments were adopted to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code) including a new individual schedule for Bauxite fines as a Group A cargo. (Expected entry into force: January 1, 2021)

Autonomous Surface Ship Trials

The Committee approved Interim guidelines for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS)  trials. 
The guidelines say that trials should be conducted in a manner that provides at least the same degree of safety, security and protection of the environment as provided by the relevant instruments. Risks associated with the trials should be appropriately identified and measures to reduce the risks, to as low as reasonably practicable and acceptable, should be put in place.

On board or remote operators of MASS should be appropriately qualified for operating MASS subject to the trial. Any personnel involved in MASS trials, whether remote or on board, should be appropriately qualified and experienced to safely conduct MASS trials. Appropriate steps should be taken to ensure sufficient cyber risk management of the systems and infrastructure used when conducting MASS trials.

The MSC made progress with the scoping exercise to look at how the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation of MASS may be introduced in IMO instruments. A working group met during the session and terms of reference were agreed for an intersessional working group to be held in September 2019 to continue the work. The first step is underway – identifying, in the relevant treaties, provisions which apply to MASS. 

Polar Code

The MSC approved guidance for navigation and communication equipment intended for use on ships operating in polar waters. The guidance includes recommendations on temperature and mechanical shock testing, and on how to address ice accretion and battery performance in cold temperatures.

This is expected to be an important tool in support of the implementation of the mandatory Polar Code. 

The MSC also approved Interim guidelines on life-saving appliances and arrangements for ships operating in polar waters.

The Committee approved a draft Assembly resolution urging Member States to  implement, on a voluntary basis,  safety measures of the Polar Code on ships not certified under the SOLAS Convention. The draft resolution will be submitted to the IMO Assembly in late 2019 for adoption.  

The Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communication and Search and Rescue (NCSR) was instructed to consider the consequences and feasibility of applying chapters 9 (Safety of Navigation) and 11(Voyage planning) of the Polar Code to non-SOLAS ships; and to consider how best to enhance the safety of non-SOLAS ships operating in polar waters, including possible development of amendments to SOLAS and/or the Polar Code.


The MSC noted the latest figures on piracy and armed robbery against ships based on reports received by IMO. In 2018, 223 incidents occurred worldwide as compared to 204 incidents reported in 2017, an increase of about nine percent at the global level. So far in 2019, incidents in West and Central African waters have accounted for about half of all reported incidents. 

The MSC reminded companies, masters and seafarers to continue the diligent application of existing IMO guidance and the revised Best Management Practices (BMP) guidance as well as the new Global Counter Piracy Guidance and the updated guidance for protection against piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea region contained in MSC.1/Circ.1601 on Revised industry counter piracy guidance. 


The MSC approved a number of circulars related to the development of e-navigation. E-navigation is defined as “the harmonized collection, integration, exchange, presentation and analysis of marine information on board and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth to berth navigation and related services for safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment.”

The MSC approved/adopted: 

MSC circular on Guidelines for the standardization of user interface design for navigation equipment. The aim is to promote improved standardization of the user interface and information used by seafarers to monitor, manage and perform navigational tasks which will enhance situational awareness and improve safety of navigation. The guidelines, including icons, apply to Integrated Navigation Systems (INS), Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) and Radar equipment, and they may be applied to other electronic navigation equipment where applicable, improving standardization and usability.

Amendments to the Performance standards for the presentation of navigation-related information on shipborne navigational displays (resolution MSC.191(79)). The implementation date of the revised standard for shipborne navigational displays on the bridge of a ship for radar equipment, ECDIS and INS should be January 1, 2024; and for all other navigational displays on the bridge of a ship July 1, 2025.

SN.1/Circ.243/Rev.2 to update the Guidelines for the presentation of navigational-related symbols, terms and abbreviations, which provide guidance on the appropriate use of navigation-related symbols to achieve a harmonized and consistent presentation.

MSC resolution on Guidance on the definition and harmonization of the format and structure of Maritime Services in the context of e navigation. The purpose of the guidance is to ensure that maritime-related information and data exchanged as part of different Maritime Services are implemented internationally in a harmonized, standardized and unified format. All Maritime Services conform with the International Hydrographic Organization S-100 framework standard, which specifies the method for data modelling and developing product specifications.

MSC circular on Initial descriptions of maritime services in the context of e-navigation. The circular includes what is intended to be the first draft of Maritime Service descriptions and is an initial contribution for the harmonization of their format and structure. The initial descriptions of Maritime Services include vessel traffic service information, navigational assistance, traffic organization, maritime safety information, pilotage, tugs, vessel shore reporting, telemedical assistance, local port information, nautical charts and publications, ice navigation, meteorological, hydrographic and environmental information and search and rescue.  

Domestic Ferry Safety 

Taking into consideration the ongoing occurrence of passenger ferry incidents with often high numbers of casualties, the MSC agreed to include a new item on measures to improve domestic ferry safety on its agenda for the next session (with an estimated four sessions needed to complete the work). 

The work will focus on developing model regulations on domestic ferry safety; providing guidance on the incorporation of model regulations on domestic ferry safety in domestic law; developing online training material on domestic ferry safety; and continuing to provide technical assistance to countries in need.    

Source: IMO