Credit: IMO

The IMO Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue Eleventh Session (NCSR 11) took place from between 4 – 13 June 2024, at the IMO in London.

Lloyd’s Register has issued a report with key outcomes from the committee.

Summary of significant outcomes

  • NCSR 11 agreed to draft amendments to SOLAS regulation V/23 and associated codes to improve the safety of pilot transfer arrangements. The sub-committee also agreed the draft MSC resolution on Performance Standards for pilot transfer arrangements. The proposed changes are set to be submitted to MSC 109 for approval, followed by adoption by MSC 110 (June 2025).
  • NCSR 11 progressed its work on amending SOLAS V to include the VHF data exchange system (VDES) as an additional voluntary carriage requirement at this stage. The sub-committee will continue to work intersessionally to finalise draft amendments to SOLAS chapter V, draft performance standards for VDES, and the draft guidelines for the operational use of shipborne VDES.
  • NCSR 11 approved the draft MSC resolution on Performance Standards for digital navigational data system (NAVDAT) and the draft revision of resolution MSC.509(105) on Provision of radio services for the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), set for adoption by MSC 109 (December 2024). MSC 108 previously agreed that NAVDAT implementation should not replace shipborne NAVTEX receivers. Remaining work for NAVDAT implementation can be addressed under the existing output of “Developments in GMDSS services, including guidelines on maritime safety information (MSI)”.
  • NCSR 11 agreed to the draft revision of the MSC circular on Guidance on the validity of radiocommunications equipment installed and used on ships (MSC.1/Circ.1460/Rev.4), which will be disseminated as MSC.1/Circ.1460/Rev.5, pending approval by MSC 109 (December 2024). The revision clarifies that mandatory VHF/DSC equipment should comply with ITU requirements at the time of implementation. Once approved, the requirement to update existing VHF radiocommunication equipment will follow the first radio survey after January 1, 2028.

Decisions of other IMO bodies

From MSC 108:

  • Dissemination of MSI and SAR related information NAVDAT implementation Use of VDES for GMDSS.
  • Review, approval and adoption of resolutions A.707(17) and A.1001(25).
  • Development of operational guidance for route exchange.
  • S-100 implementation matters, including training needs of seafarers.

From A33:

  • Adoption of resolution A.1192(33) on Urging Member States and all relevant stakeholders to promote actions to prevent illegal operations in the maritime sector by the “dark fleet” or “shadow fleet”.
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Routeing measures and ship reporting systems
The safety of shipping and the cleanliness of oceans are enhanced by routing measures and ship reporting systems. Ship reporting systems further improve safety by providing real-time information on ship movements. SOLAS Chapter V designates the IMO as the sole international authority for establishing these
systems, ensuring safe and efficient maritime navigation.

NCSR agreed on the below:

  • The draft revision to COLREG.2/Circ.67 on amended ships’ routeing system Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) “In the approaches to Hook of Holland and at North Hinder” and associated measures.
  • The draft revised recommendation on navigation for containerships in traffic separation schemes Off Vlieland, Terschelling-German Bight, Off Friesland and German Bight western approach.
  • Draft areas to be avoided around oil rigs off the Brazilian coast – Santos Basin.

Development of amendments to SOLAS chapters IV and V and performance standards and guidelines to introduce VHF data exchange system (VDES)
The Very High Frequency (VHF) Data Exchange System (VDES) integrates the functions of terrestrial and satellite VHF data exchange, Application Specific Message (ASM) and Automatic Identification System (AIS). VDES has additional capacity for the exchange of more digital data and could accommodate future growth in demand for utilising digital data in maritime radiocommunications. It was previously proposed at the IMO that there is a need to amend chapters IV and V of SOLAS to introduce VDES, and to develop performance standards and guidelines to facilitate the widespread adoption of VDES. Furthermore, MSC 108 agreed that the use of any new satellite system, including the VHF Data Exchange System (VDES), for use in the GMDSS, should be recognised by the Organization in accordance with the applicable procedures. NCSR 11 agreed on a voluntary implementation of the VDES as further developments take place, which will allow it to be used concurrently with an AIS.

Due to time constraints, NCSR 11 could not make progress on the preparation of draft amendments to SOLAS chapter V, draft performance standards for VDES, or the draft guidelines for the operational use of shipborne VDES. A Correspondence Group was re-established to continue the work intersessionally for finalisation at NCSR 12.

NCSR 11 also agreed that the amendments to chapter IV should not be pursued at this stage and invited interested Member States and international organizations to consider proposing a new output for the introduction of VDES as communication equipment under SOLAS chapter IV, if required in future. If the work is finalised at NCSR 12, then any amendments to SOLAS will not enter into force before 1 January 2028.

Development of guidelines for the use of electronic nautical publications (ENP) SOLAS regulations V/ and V/ require ships to have nautical charts and publications for voyage planning, display, and monitoring, which can be in electronic form with appropriate backups. The use of ENPs in lieu of traditional nautical publications has surged in recent years due to their advantages. However, there’s no current IMO instrument providing uniform instructions, though some guidance has been issued by national hydrographic offices. Therefore, urgent development of specific IMO-level guidance is felt necessary to ensure uniform and global implementation of SOLAS regulation V/ Noting that several issues still require consideration, NCSR 11 established a correspondence group to finalise the draft guidelines on installation and use of electronic nautical publications. The report will be submitted to NCSR 12.

Revision of SOLAS regulation V/23 and associated instruments to improve the safety of pilot transfer arrangements
Accidents resulting in the tragic loss of pilots continue to happen worldwide despite previous efforts to improve pilot safety though amendments to SOLAS regulation V/23 (resolution MSC.308(88)) and standards for pilot transfers (resolution A.1045(27)). Statistics published by the International Maritime Pilots Association (IMPA) over the past few years show that an unacceptably high rate of non-compliant pilot transfer arrangements installed on all types of ships, together with the improper use of pilot ladders and a lack of regular and effective maintenance and inspection, are major contributing factors to accidents.

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NCSR 11 agreed to:

  • The draft amendments to SOLAS regulation V/23.
  • The consequential draft amendments to the 1994 and 2000 HSC Codes and the 2008 SPS Code.
  • The draft MSC resolution on Performance standards for pilot transfer arrangements (expected to be adopted as a mandatory instrument)

The draft amendments to the regulations are expected to be approved by MSC 109, for adoption at MSC 110 (May 2025).

Application details of the draft amendments to SOLAS regulation V/23:

  • Pilot transfer arrangements installed on or after 1 January 2028, shall be designed, manufactured, constructed, secured and installed in accordance with parts A, B and C of the performance standards. Installed on or after 1 January 2028 means a contractual delivery date for the pilot transfer arrangement
  • or, in the absence of a contractual delivery date, the actual delivery date of the arrangement to the ship on or after 1 January 2028.
  • Pilot transfer arrangements installed before 1 January 2028 on ships to which SOLAS chapter I applies, shall be designed, manufactured, constructed, secured and installed in accordance with parts A, B and C of the performance standards, not later than the first annual, periodical or renewal safety equipment survey after 1 January 2029, as referred to in MSC.1/Circ.1290.
  • Pilot transfer arrangements installed before 1 January 2028 on ships to which SOLAS Chapter I does not apply, shall be designed, manufactured, constructed, secured and installed in accordance with parts A, B and C of the performance standards, no later than 1 January 2030.
  • Regardless of installation date, all pilot transfer arrangements must undergo inspection, stowage, maintenance, replacement, and familiarisation in accordance with parts D and E of the performance standards.• Pilot transfer arrangements shall be approved in accordance with part F of the performance standards.
  • Accommodation ladders, together with any associated fittings intended for use in accordance with the performance standards shall meet the requirements for the means of embarkation on and disembarkation from ships as required by SOLAS regulation II-1/3-9. This includes those installed prior to 1 January 2010 which do not currently need to comply with SOLAS regulation II-1/3-9.
  • Regardless of date of installation, maintenance and inspection of accommodation ladders used in the combination arrangement shall be carried out in accordance with SOLAS regulation II-1/3-9.3.

NCSR 11 also agreed to the draft MSC circular on Voluntary early implementation of the amendments to SOLAS regulation V/23 on pilot transfer arrangements with approval expected at MSC 109.

NCSR 11 invited IMPA to make modifications to proposed illustrations on pilot transfer arrangements to address the outstanding issues concerning the draft revision of MSC.1/Circ.1428 and submit them to MSC 109 for approval.

Updates to the LRIT system
The misuse of LRIT and AIS equipment, leading to the operation of “dark” or “shadow” fleets, poses significant risks to maritime safety and the environment. The IMO has taken steps to address this issue, including the adoption of performance standards for LRIT at MSC 106 (resolution MSC.263(84)/Rev.1) and urging Member States to prevent illegal operations in the maritime sector (resolution A.1192(33)). Efforts are underway to improve the security of AIS. Despite challenges such as susceptibility to manipulation and hacking, measures are being identified to mitigate these risks. Additionally, paragraph 22 of the annex to resolution A.1106(29) permits the deactivation of AIS in situations where the safety or security of the ship is compromised. This document aims to discourage the unethical practice of shutting down LRIT equipment and advocates for measures to enhance compliance and safety in maritime operations.

In response, NCSR 11 noted the need for measures to enhance the monitoring of the performance of LRIT shipborne equipment. It also encouraged Member States in the LRIT system to actively monitor LRIT transmissions from their ships to quickly detect missing position reports or unusual trends. Furthermore, NCSR 11 endorsed creating a new output for further consideration of the related proposals, given the anticipated cost implications and the potential need for amendments to the relevant LRIT documentation.

Revision of the Criteria for the provision of mobile satellite communication services in the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) (Resolution A.1001(25)) Resolution A.1001(25) Criteria for the provision of mobile satellite communication services in the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) sets out the criteria that a satellite communications system must meet to be recognised as a service provider in the GMDSS. Guidance is also provided in MSC.1/Circ.1414 Guidance to Prospective GMDSS Satellite Service Providers.

However, both the resolution and circular were developed when the only recognised mobile satellite system was a geostationary system and this presented difficulties when it came to evaluating a Low Earth Orbit system (Iridium). Consequently, it was agreed that the instruments should be revised. NCSR 11 prepared a draft Assembly resolution on criteria for providing mobile satellite communication systems in the GMDSS, revoking resolution A.1001(25) and MSC.1/Circ.1414. It applies to both current and future RMSSs without adding constraints or costs to existing ones. The draft will be submitted for approval at MSC 109, aiming for adoption by Assembly 34 (December 2025).

Application for recognition: Once approved and adopted, manufacturers of satellite systems which are seeking their inclusion in the GMDSS must apply through a Member State to the IMO. Applications will be reviewed by the MSC and, if there is no objection in principle, will be forwarded to NCSR for evaluation.

Source: Safety4Sea


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