IMO adopts ship construction regulations

24 May 2010

IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) has instigated an historic change in the way international standards for ship construction is to be determined and implemented in the future.

The recent adoption of so-called ‘goal-based standards’ (GBS) for oil tankers and bulk carriers by the MSC means that newly-constructed vessels of these types will have to comply with structural standards conforming to functional requirements developed and agreed by the committee. This means that, for the first time in its history, IMO will be setting standards for ship construction.

The committee also adopted guidelines that, equally for the first time, give the IMO a role in verifying compliance with SOLAS requirements. The guidelines establish the procedures to be followed in order to verify that the design and construction rules of an Administration or its recognized organization, for bulk carriers and/or oil tankers, conform to the adopted GBS.

The verification process consists of two main elements: self assessment of the rules by the entity submitting them to IMO for verification; followed by an audit, to be carried out by experts appointed by the organization, of the rules, the self-assessment and the supporting documentation.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, governments and international organizations had expressed the view that the IMO should play a larger role in determining the structural standards to which new ships are built. The philosophy underpinning this move has been that ships should be designed and constructed for a specified design life and that, if properly operated and maintained, they should remain safe and environmentally friendly throughout their service life.

The MSC formally adopted International Goal based Ship Construction Standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers, along with amendments to Chapter II-1 of the International Convention for SOLAS, making their application mandatory, with an entry into force date of 1 July 2012.

The new SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10 will apply to oil tankers and bulk carriers of 150m in length and above. It will require new ships to be designed and constructed for a specified design life and to be safe and environmentally friendly, in intact and specified damage conditions, throughout their life. Under the regulation, ships should have adequate strength, integrity and stability to minimize the risk of loss of the ship or pollution to the marine environment due to structural failure, including collapse, resulting in flooding or loss of watertight integrity.

The MSC further adopted guidelines for the information to be included in a Ship Construction File.

IMO secretary-general Efthimios E. Mitropoulos has described the adoption of GBS as “a significant and important breakthrough for the Organization, not only in terms of how future regulations will be developed, but also with respect to the role that IMO will play in verifying compliance, in this particular case, with SOLAS requirements.” He added, “the concept that IMO should state what has to be achieved, leaving classification societies, ship designers and naval architects, marine engineers and ship builders the freedom to decide on how best to employ their professional skills to meet the required standards is a sound one and I congratulate the Committee on the painstaking and hard work carried out to turn the concept into reality.”

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