New IMO rules on fire protection, lifeboats go into effect

The following is a regulatory briefing issued by the International Maritime Organization:
Better fire protection for cabin balconies on passenger ships –
SOLAS amendments now in force
Amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea
(SOLAS) to strengthen the fire protection arrangements on cabin balconies on
passenger ships entered into force on        1 July 2008, along with other
SOLAS amendments relating to the prevention of accidents involving lifeboats
and protective coatings on ships.
Fire regulations on cabin balconies
Amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 and to the International Code for Fire
Safety Systems (FSS Code) to strengthen the fire protection arrangements in
relation to cabin balconies on passenger vessels were developed in response
to the fire aboard the cruise ship Star Princess, while on passage between
Grand Cayman and Montego Bay, Jamaica, in March 2006. The fire began on an
external balcony and spread over several decks.
The amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 are aimed at ensuring that existing
regulations 4.4 (Primary deck coverings), (Ceilings and linings),
5.3.2 (Use of combustible materials) and 6 (Smoke generation potential and
toxicity) are also applied to cabin balconies on new passenger ships.
For existing passenger ships, relevant provisions require furniture on cabin
balconies to be of restricted fire risk unless fixed water spraying systems,
fixed fire detection and fire alarm systems are fitted and that partitions
separating balconies be constructed of non-combustible materials, similar to
the provisions for new passenger ships.
Prevention of accidents involving lifeboats
An amendment to SOLAS regulation III/ concerns provisions for the
launch of free-fall lifeboats during abandon-ship drills. The amendment will
allow, during the abandon-ship drill, the lifeboat to either be free-fall
launched with only the required operating crew on board, or lowered into the
water by means of the secondary means of launching without the operating
crew on board, and then manoeuvred in the water by the operating crew. The
aim is to prevent accidents with lifeboats occurring during abandon-ship
Protective coatings
Amendments to SOLAS regulations II-1/3-2 make mandatory the Performance
standard for protective coatings of dedicated seawater ballast tanks on all
new ships and of double-side skin spaces of bulk carriers.
The performance standard will apply to ships for which the building contract
is placed on or after 1 July 2008; or, in the absence of a building
contract, the keels of which are laid on or after 1 January 2009, or the
delivery of which is on or after 1 July 2012.
Other amendments
Amendments to Codes and other instruments which also entered into force or
became effective on 1 July 2008 include:
* amendments to the FSS Code relating to fire extinguishers, specifically
portable foam applicators; fixed foam fire-extinguishing systems;
fixed-pressure water-spraying and water-mist fire-extinguishing systems,
fixed fire detection and fire alarm systems for cabin balconies;
* amendments to the International Life-Saving Appliance Code (LSA Code),
including those related to life rafts, life boats and rescue boats,
particularly in relation to stowage and release mechanisms;
* amendments to the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of
Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code), to update the references
to SOLAS regulations and to add two more chemicals to the list of products
in chapter 19 (Summary of minimum requirements);
* amendments to the International Codes of Safety for High-Speed Craft (1994
HSC Code and the 2000 HSC Code), to update them in line with relevant SOLAS
amendments and, in the case of the 2000 HSC Code, to revise requirements
relating to testing and calculations for buoyancy, stability and
* amendments to the Protocol of 1988, relating to the International
Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, to include in the Record of
equipment for the relevant safety certificate an entry regarding the
long-range identification and tracking system;
* amendments to the Protocol of 1988 relating to the International
Convention on Load Lines, 1966, including amendments of a reference in
regulation 22 (Scuppers, inlets and discharges) and an amendment in
regulation 39 (Minimum bow height and reserve buoyancy);
* amendments to the Dynamically Supported Craft (DSC) Code to update it in
line with relevant amendments to SOLAS;
* amendments to the Gas Carrier (GC) Code, to update it in line with certain
fire safety requirements in SOLAS; and
* amendments to the Revised recommendation on testing of life-saving
appliances (resolution MSC.81(70)), including revisions to prototype tests
for lifebuoys, lifejackets, immersion suits, anti-exposure suits and thermal
protective aids, liferafts, lifeboats, rescue boats and fast rescue boats,
launching and embarkation appliances, position-indicating lights for
life-saving appliances and hydrostatic release units; and revisions to
production and installation tests for survival craft, and to launching and
stowage arrangements.
The amendments were all adopted in December 2006 by the Maritime Safety
Committee (MSC) of IMO.
IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations
specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of
shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
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By Professional Mariner Staff