Clarification of SOLAS Chapter III, MSC/Circ.1093 and MSC.1/Circ.1206 on lifeboats

The new amendments to SOLAS Chapter III, which entered into force 1 July 2006 by Resolution MSC.152(78), have created considerable confusion and frustration in the industry, especially when it comes to the new requirements of Regulation 20 – Operational readiness, maintenance and inspections. 

The reason for the confusion is that SOLAS refers in a footnote toMSC.1/Circ.1206on Measures to prevent accidents with lifeboats. (This circular superseded MSC/Circ.1093). 

The footnotes given in SOLAS refer to codes, guidelines and recommendations related to a certain text, but do NOT form part of the Convention itself. This is clearly stated in the foreword to SOLAS.  

What this actually means is that MSC.1/Circ.1206 is only a SOLAS recommendatory guideline and is therefore not mandatory by the SOLAS Convention itself. This has been confirmed by the IMO Secretariat. 

But the SOLAS Convention text says that: “Maintenance, testing and inspection of life-saving appliances shall be carried out based on these guidelines”. 

To complicate matters further, flag state Administrations may choose to adopt and mandate the recommended guidelines into their national legislation, which several flags have already done. 

INTERTANKO urges members to contact their flag state to clarify whether the guidelines will become/are mandatory for their vessels or not.

INTERTANKO recommends that its members follow the recommended guidelines in MSC.1/Circ.1206, in order to maintain the highest possible standard of their lifeboat equipment, to avoid unnecessary delays to their vessels and to comply with the recommendatory guidelines as stipulated in the SOLAS Convention. 

The guideline itself (MSC.1/Circ.1206) will be up for discussion at various IMO Sub-Committees for consideration as to whether it should become mandatory or not. If it is decided it should, it will then be referred to MSC 83 (spring 2007) for approval, after which it will be sent to MSC 84 (autumn 2007) for adoption. It will then require the appropriate circulation and implementation, which may mean anything between 3 to 4 years before the guidelines become mandatory. 

Contact: Fredrik Larsson