MSC 83 - Safety of Oil & Chemical Tankers (Inert Gas debate)

Members will be fully aware of the previous discussions and reports submitted to the IMO by the Inter-Industry Group (IIG), which recommended the IMO to consider amending SOLAS Chapter II-2 to provide for the application of inert gas to new oil tankers of less than 20,000 dwt and to new chemical tankers, as reported previously in Weekly NEWS No. 18/2006 of 5 May 2006; and will also be aware of the outcome of discussions on this issue from the Design & Equipment Sub-committee (DE 50), which can be accessed here and the outcome of the discussion from Fire Protection Sub-committee (FP 51), which can be accessed here.


Considerable debate took place at this week's MSC 83 plenary session regarding the outcome from DE 50 and FP 51, specifically on whether these two Sub-committees had reached the same conclusion with regard to new and existing ships. FP 51 had agreed to first consider "measures to prevent explosions on oil and chemical tankers transporting low-flash point cargoes" and that this should be included in its work programme, in co-operation with the Bulk Liquid Gas (BLG) Sub-committee and DE Sub-committee. The FP would consider measures for new ships and, depending on the outcome, could consider appropriate measures for existing oil and chemical tankers.


The Maritime Safety Committee then reviewed the outcome of DE 50 and noted in the MSC 83 report the comments made by some delegations regarding:


·          Problems associated with retrofitting inert gas systems on new and existing tankers;

·          The disadvantages and advantages of the application of such systems;

·          Practical & safety implications for the operation of chemical tankers and product tankers of less than 20,000 dwt, as well as other human element issues;

·          Practical application of retrofitting smaller chemical tankers.


The MSC agreed to endorse the recommendations of the FP Sub-committee (FP 51) and included in the FP Sub-committee's work programme a high priority item "Measures to prevent explosions on oil and chemical tankers transporting low flash point cargoes", with two sessions needed to complete its work in co-operation with the BLG and DE Sub-committees. It also agreed that the FP Sub-committee should first consider measures for new ships, taking into account the different operational demands on chemical tankers and, depending upon the outcome, the FP Sub-committee could then consider appropriate measures for existing oil and chemical tankers transporting low-flash point cargoes, taking into account the comments made during the MSC discussion as outlined above.


The INTERTANKO Chemical Tanker Committee has this issue firmly on its agenda; background information and documents on the matter are available here .


For members' information a position paper from INTERTANKO can be accessed here .


Contact: Howard Snaith