IMO, A SEA Of DOCUMENTS – 2 (Committees and Sub-committees)

Resolutions, Circular Letters, etc issued by committees and Subcommittees are very effective tools of official communication internally and with Assembly, Council and various Organizations.

The MSC is the highest technical body of the Organization. Its technical documentation relates to:

  • aids to navigation; construction and equipment of vessels;
  • manning from a safety standpoint;
  • rules for the prevention of collisions;
  • handling of dangerous cargoes;
  • maritime safety procedures and requirements;
  • hydrographic information; log-books and navigational records;
  • marine casualty investigations; and
  • salvage and rescue and any other matters directly affecting maritime safety.

Circulars / letters are very important tools of communication. They could invariably be an information / communication from a Member State. A circular letter maybe, a general invitation for obvious or targeted parties, to attend a meeting. Sometimes, it may be notification of entry into force. Circular letters may be addressed:
1. to all member States only; or additionally,
2. to the United Nations and Specialized Agencies, Intergovernmental Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Status.

The general basic format for the symbols of the Maritime Safety Committee documents is shown in the following document:

a. Maritime Safety Committee
b. Resolution number
c. Session
d. Addendum
e. Date
f. Subject: Adoption of new and amended performance standards

Following is the reason why above resolution is adopted and issued by MSC:
The Maritime Safety Committee, recalling Article 28(b) of the Convention on the International Maritime Organization concerning the functions of the Committee. Thus, recalling resolution A.825(19), by which the Assembly resolved that the functions of adopting performance standards for radio and navigational equipment, as well as amendments thereto, shall be performed by the Maritime Safety Committee on behalf of the Organization, having considered new performance standards and amendments to existing performance standards adopted by the Assembly.
Reference is made to subcommittee who has worked on the subject and assisted MSC. Thus, the amendments being prepared by the forty-third session of the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation.

Adopts the following new and recommended performance standards, set out in Annexes 1 to 3 to the present resolution……:

In the following circulars, note the circular numbers, session and the dates.

The MEPC, consisting of all Member States, deals with any matter within the scope of the Organisation concerned with prevention and control of pollution from ships.

Following is the MEPC Circular number 883, dated 21st May, 2019 and refers to own Resolution 259 of 68th session:

Multiple sourced documents:
A document may have a direct relationship with more than one Committee. For example, a matter in respect of the certificates, which must be carried on board ship, has connection to all of the following Committees. Thus, as FAL, dealing directly with the ship’s documentation in respect of arrival/departure port’; MSC, dealing with the issues of Navigation, safety, Equipment, etc; and MEPC dealing with environmental issues, the source of this circular has rightly emerged from all of the following Bodies:

  • MSC
  • MEPC
  • FAL
  • LEG

f.    Document in English
g.    Reference to Circulars by IMO Committees viz FAL.2/Circ.131, MEPC.1/Circ.873, MSC.1/Circ.1586, LEG.2/Circ.3.
h.   Document is dated 19 July 2017.
i.    The title is: List of certificates and documents required to be carried on board ships, 2017. 

The relation of the document with the source offices is stated in the circular as follows:
The Facilitation Committee, at its forty-first session; the Marine Environment Protection Committee, at its seventieth session; the Maritime Safety Committee, at its ninety-seventh session; and the Legal Committee, at its one hundred and fourth session; approved the List of certificates and documents required to be carried on board ships, 2017, as set out in the annex.

MSC /MEPC Circulars prior 2006. Following guidelines for the ships operating in Arctic Ice Covered Waters, originates separately from MSC & MEPC.

Guidelines for ships operating in Arctic ice-covered waters,  refers to the two main committees of IMO. Thus, The Maritime Safety Committee, at its seventy-sixth session (2 to 13 December 2002), and the Marine Environment Protection Committee, at its forty-eighth session (7 to 11 October 2002), recognizing the need for recommendatory provisions applicable to ships operating in Arctic ice-covered waters, additional to the mandatory and recommendatory provisions contained in existing IMO instruments, approved Guidelines for ships operating in Arctic ice-covered waters, as set out in the annex.

Joint MSC/MEPC circulars (post 2006).
MSC/MEPC Circulars w.e.f. 2006, have single numbering scheme. Thus,
MSC-MEPC 1: Organization and methods of work
MSC-MEPC 2: General matters
MSC-MEPC 3: Casualty-related matters /Circ.
MSC-MEPC 4: Port State control-related matters,
MSC-MEPC 5:  Survey and certification-related matters,
MSC-MEPC 6: National contact points for safety and pollution prevention and response

The two major Committees at their separate sessions, which were held around the same time (on different dates), issued same circular under joint Circular scheme. Thus, the Maritime Safety Committee, at its eighty-first session (10 to 19 May 2006), and the Marine Environment Protection Committee, at its fifty-third session (18 to 22 July 2005), in order to give guidance on the carriage of publications on board ships, approved the IMO requirements on carriage of publications on board ships as set out in the annex.

The Maritime Safety Committee, at its seventy-second session (17 to 26 May 2000) and the Marine Environment Protection Committee, at its forty-fourth and forty-fifth sessions (6 to 8, 10 and 13 March 2000 and 2 to 6 October 2000 respectively) approved an MSC/MEPC circular (MSC/Circ.953 and MEPC/Circ.372) on Reports on marine casualties and incidents and Harmonized reporting procedures, amalgamating and harmonizing the procedures for reporting casualties to the Organization contained in existing MSC and MEPC circulars.

The Maritime Safety Committee, at its eightieth session (11 to 20 May 2005) and the Marine Environment Protection Committee, at its fifty-third session (18 to 22 July 2005) approved the recommended conditions for extending the period of validity of a certificate to clarify that extension of the period of validity of certificates should only be granted in very specific circumstances, as set out in the annex.

MSC-MEPC.6/Circ.18 dated 31 January 2020 National Contact Points for Safety and Pollution Prevention and Response.  This circular replaces all previously issued circulars under this title.  The circular includes, in the annex, the List of national operational contact points responsible for the receipt, transmission and processing of urgent reports on incidents involving harmful substances including oil from ships to coastal States.

The Legal Committee is empowered to deal with any legal matter within the scope of the Organization. The Committee consists of all Member States of the IMO. The following is the basic format of the Resolution of Legal Committee. Thus, LEG.2(82) refers to the  2nd resolution since the beginning and is adopted at the 82nd session. The format being self explanatory, no additional explanation is necessary.

The Facilitation Committee (FAL) deals with matters related to the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, including the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo from ports. The Committee also addresses electronic business, including the single window concept, and aims to ensure that the right balance is struck between regulation and the facilitation of international maritime trade.

The MSC and MEPC were assisted in their work by nine sub-committees which are also open to all Member States. They are: Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG),Carriage of Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers(DSC), Fire Protection (FP), Radio-communications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR), Safety of Navigation (NAV), Ship Design and Equipment (DE), Stability and Load Lines and Fishing Vessels Safety (SLF), Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW) and Flag State Implementation (FSI). Above nine Sub-Committees, which existed up until 2013, were amalgamated into seven. Each new Sub-Committee was provided with new terms of reference and will meet under their new names and terms of reference beginning in January, 2014. This reorganization resulted from an initiative by the IMO to become more efficient with resources.

Documentation prior 2014

Report is made by Sub-Committee on Stability and Load Lines and on Fishing Vessels Safety at 52nd session dated 2nd March, 2010. The document comments on the SDS Correspondence Group’s report, SLF 52/7/1, with a proposal to have one common MSC circular for both guidances on open watertight doors developed by the SLF and DE Sub-Committees respectively.

The above document is a report made by Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers in respect of  amendments to the IMDG Code; amendments to the IMSBC Code; evaluation of properties of Solid Bulk Cargoes;  amendments to the CSS Code; safe working conditions for securing of containers; etc.

Following circular is issued by STCW Subcommittee. It provides Interim Guidance for Parties, Administrations, Port State Control authorities, Recognized Organizations and other relevant parties on the requirements of the STCW Convention, 1978, as amended.

Following document is a report by Subcommittee on Flag State Implementation made to MSC & MEPC.

Post 2014, the new Subcommittees formed are as follows:

  • Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC).
  • Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW).
  • Implementation of IMO Instruments (III). 
  • Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR).
  • Pollution Prevention and response (PPR).
  • Ship Design and Construction (SDC).
  • Ship Systems & Equipment (SSE).

Sessions conducted after 2014 will be considered under the new series and numbering of sessions will commence from here on.

The first session of Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC) was held from 8 to 12 September 2014.

The Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) deals with the human side of shipping, including training and certification; the review, updating and revision of IMO model courses; and guidance addressing issues such as fatigue. 1st  session of Subcommittee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW), was held from 17 to 21 February 2014. Thus, guidance on security certification for seafarers was agreed.

  • The Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III) brings together Flag, Port and Coastal States to consider implementation issues, including the analysis of consolidated audit summary reports from the mandatory IMO Member state Audit Scheme. The Sub-Committee has a key role in casualty analysis and issuing lessons learned from marine incidents. The Sub-Committee receives and analyses Port State Control data and keeps under review the procedures for Port State Control. Guidelines for survey and certification including the survey guidelines under the Harmonized System of Survey and Certification (HSSC) also come under the remit of this Sub-Committee.​ The 1st session of Subcommittee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III),was held between  14 and 18 July 2014. Thus, the Guidelines for Port State Control under the BWM Convention were agreed.
    Subsequently, the following instrument was adopted by MEPC:
  • The Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) deals with all matters related to navigation and, including the analysis and approval of ships routeing measures and ship reporting systems; carriage requirements and performance standards for navigational and communication equipment; the long-range identification and tracking (LRIT) system and the development of e-navigation. It also deals with search and rescue matters and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). Joint working groups reporting to the NCSR Sub-Committee include the ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group on Harmonization of Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue and the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group on Maritime Radio communication Matters. First session of Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR), was held from 30 June to 4 July. Thus, draft Polar Code chapters on Safety of Navigation and Communication was finalized.
    Subsequently, the Code was made mandatory. Thus, IMO’s International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) is mandatory under both the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The Polar Code entered into force on 1 January 2017.
  • The Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) deals with all matters relating to pollution prevention and response which falls within IMO’s range of operation. This ranges from all annexes of the MARPOL Convention through to the control and management of harmful aquatic organisms in ships’ ballast water and sediments; bio-fouling; anti-fouling system; pollution preparedness, response and cooperation for oil and hazardous and noxious substances; and the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships. The Working Group on the Evaluation of Safety and Pollution Hazards of Chemicals works under the auspices of the PPR Sub-Committee. First session of Subcommittee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR), was held from 3 to 7 February 2014. Thus, MARPOL Annex VI guidelines relating to marine diesel engines were agreed.

Sixth session was held between 18-22 February 2019. Subsequently the Resolution on the subject was adopted.

RESOLUTION MEPC.320(74) 2019 GUIDELINES FOR CONSISTENT IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 0.50% SULPHUR LIMIT UNDER MARPOL ANNEX VI   Thus, HAVING CONSIDERED, at its seventy-fourth session, draft 2019 Guidelines for consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI, prepared by the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response, at its sixth session.

  • The Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC) considers a wide range of technical and operational matters related to ship design and construction, including subdivision and stability. The Sub-Committee also covers testing and approval of construction and materials, load lines, tonnage measurement, safety of fishing vessels and the carriage of industrial personnel. The first session of Subcommittee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC) was held from 20 to 24 January 2014. Thus, draft mandatory Polar Code and amendments was agreed in principle.
  • The Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE) deals with a wide range of technical and operational matters related to systems and equipment on all types of ships, vessels, craft and mobile units covered by IMO instruments. This includes life-saving equipment, appliances and arrangements; and fire detection and fire extinguishing systems. The Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE), meeting for its 1st session, agreed a draft Recommendation on safety measures for existing vehicle carriers carrying motor vehicles with compressed hydrogen or natural gas in their tanks.

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