Reports from the 49th session of the Navigation Sub-Committee (NAV 49) at IMO

Places of Refuge

IMO’s Safety of Navigation sub-Committee this week finalised two sets of Guidelines covering the issue of places of refuge. With the establishment of a drafting group, attended by INTERTANKO, the sub-Committee streamlined the text of the “Guidelines on Places of Refuge for Ships in need of Assistance” together with the “Guidelines on the Establishment of Maritime Assistance Services (MAS)”.

After two and half years of development the Guidelines for ships in distress cover aspects relating to the action required of masters and or salvors in need of a place of refuge whilst also giving guidance regarding the action expected of Coastal States. Following lengthy debates and a host of submissions during the development of these Guidelines, the spirit of compromise has meant that the overall  intention of the Guidelines with respect to the assistance for masters has to a great extent been weakened. In the wake of recent incidents and further pressure from coastal States during the development process, the Guidelines now represent an amalgamation of non-commitment and loose guidance. Much of the positive and practical aspects drawn into the Guidelines has been lost to statements highlighting the rights of coastal States to take control of the situation and require the vessel to follow shore-side instructions.

The two sets of Guidelines and their accompanying Resolutions will be discussed and adopted by the IMO Assembly in November. INTERTANKO hopes that the positive endeavours by the IMO in developing these Guidelines will be reflected in an increased public awareness regarding the coastal States option for designating a place of refuge to ships in distress.

Contact: Tim Wilkins


INTERTANKO has over the last 12 months participated in an IMO correspondence group that was tasked with completing a feasibility study of the fitting of VDRs (Voyage Data Recorders) to existing cargo ships. INTERTANKO’s involvement specifically concentrated on the cost benefit analysis retro-fitting VDRs and the possible production of a simplified VDR.

The culmination of this work and that of the full correspondence group was submitted to IMO by Germany as document NAV-49/7 and can be downloaded from INTERTANKO’s web site. Click here to download.

The technical working group that reviewed the document concluded that it was feasible to fit VDRs to existing ships but also importantly concluded that it was feasible to produce a simplified VDR (which has become known as an "S-VDR"). Although the technical working group has developed a set of performance standards for an S-VDR, it is anticipated that further discussion will take place before this is finalised.

The following implementation dates for retro-fitting VDR/S-VDR were proposed (which are currently in line with those proposed by Europe):

  1. Cargo ships of 20,000 GT and upwards constructed before 1 July 2002 not later than 1 January 2007
  2. Cargo ships of 3,000GT and upwards but less than 20,000 GT constructed before 1 July 2002 not later than 1January 2008

On this basis INTERTANKO raised concerns regarding retro-fitting VDR/S-VDR to single hull tankers that will be phased out under 13G. INTERTANKO’s comments were taken into account and the standard IMO wording for exemptions was incorporated into the text which reads as follows:

"Administrations may exempt cargo ships from the application of the requirements of paragraph 20.2 when such ships will be taken permanently out of service within two years after the implementation date specified in sub-paragraphs 1 and 2 above.”

The absolute implementation dates remain to be confirmed at the next session of the Marine Safety Committee (MSC78) in December. 

Discussions were still taking place at the time of writing this report and largely centred around the costs of VDRs and S-VDRs. Some manufactures stated that the cost of producing and fitting a full VDR have been significantly reduced since the feasibility study was initiated, and it is therefore important that the performance standard of an S-VDR remains simple enough so that a reasonable cost reduction can be maintained.

Further details will be supplied next week.

Contact: Howard Snaith

Keeping Anchor Watch

During this weeks NAV 49th session at IMO London the subject of who should be allowed to keep an anchor watch was raised by some Member States and certain industry bodies. It was proposed that an anchor watch could only be carried out by a qualified navigational officer and that this requirement would be made mandatory. Some Member States were more in favour of giving the Master some guidelines under which in certain circumstances the navigational officer could be replaced by another responsible person.

A working group was tasked with discussing the proposal and debating the issue. Many points were raised from both sides regarding the matter but it was finally proposed that the Master still should have the right to decide this issue, bearing in mind current STCW regulations covering watch keeping requirements. The proposed additional circumstances and wording would be in addition to current requirements and give the master further guidance. To this end a drafting group was formed to discuss the matter and formulate wording and circumstances under which the Master might elect to have another person conduct an anchor watch.

The Master of every ship is bound to ensure that the watchkeeping arrangements are adequate for maintaining a safe watch at anchor at any time. With this in mind it was proposed that an officer in charge of a navigational watch should keep an anchor watch at an unsheltered anchorage, at an open roadstead or any other virtual at sea conditions and unsafe situations. However, it was recommended that the Master may allow an experienced crew member to carry out anchor watch duties taking into account certain factors such as:

  1. prevailing weather, sea, ice and current conditions
  2. traffic conditions
  3. security and piracy

To date, the working group has reviewed recommendations and will put forward the findings for further debate. The final paper was due to be presented later this week and an update of the outcome will be given in next weeks news. 

Contact: Philip Shenton,

Routeing of Ships

During the NAV 49th session a working group was formed to discuss, amend and comment on several Member States’ proposals for the introduction / amendment to Traffic Seperation Schemes around the world under the jurisdiction of the various Member States. This also included the amendments to some Mandatory Ship Reporting systems connected with the Traffic Seperation Schemes.

Of particular interest was a Member State’s proposal to introduce two new traffic lanes off Cabo Finisterre solely for the use of vessels carrying dangerous bulk cargoes. The two new traffic lanes would be in addition to the system currently in operation in this area. Essentially the introduction of two new traffic lanes would give two North bound lanes and two South Bound lanes. The proposed new lanes would be 3 miles wide with a separation zone from the existing scheme of 4 miles and a 1 mile wide separation between lanes. Amendments would also be made to the mandatory reporting scheme to ensure that the new area would also be included to ensure complete coverage.

The Adriatic Sea, Northern part (Eastern and Western portions) and to include approaches to the Gulfs of Venice and Trieste are also subject to discussion after some Member States put forward  proposals for a new Traffic Separation Scheme to be introduced into the areas mentioned.

There has also been a proposal by some Member States for the creation of a new anchorage area within the Straits of Singapore for the purpose of providing an emergency anchorage area, the anchoring of damaged vessels requiring repairs and a safe place for vessels to take stores. This anchorage would be located within the large separation area in the Western part of the Strait (Main Strait).

At the time of reporting, the working group has discussed all proposals and is in the final stages of drafting its findings. An update of the outcome will be given next week. 

Contact: Philip Shenton