IMO concludes on permanent means of access

The unusual process of revising a regulation between its adoption and its entry into force has been completed in the case of the amendments to SOLAS mandating Permanent Means of Access.

As previously reported, in December 2002 IMO adopted a set of significant amendments to the SOLAS Convention (SOLAS II-1/3-6) mandating Permanent Means of Access in new tankers and new bulk carriers (built as from 1 January 2005). The development of this quite complex regulation was very fast and the results were not entirely practical.

The shortcomings prompted a strong and coordinated industry campaign for a revision of the provisions and the IMO and Flag Administrations subsequently agreed to revise the regulation. The process of revision was dealt with at two recent IMO meetings: first in March 2004 at the Design and Equipment Sub-committee’s 47th session (DE 47) where technicalities were discussed; second this week at the 78th session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 78) where the amendments were adopted.

MSC 78 has made a few improvements to the text agreed at DE 47 in March. Click here  to download a copy of the new text. (Please be aware that this is NOT the official text but a provisional text we are circulating before the IMO releases the official version (possibly in a couple of months’ time) and which, when available, will be circulated immediately. For ease of reference, the changes made this week are seen as track changes in the attached text).

Although there is no significant change from the March decisions (see our Weekly News No. 10 of 5 March 2004) a few improvements should be noted:

  • page 4, paragraph 1.3 of the Technical Provisions makes it clear that the Technical Provisions of the means of access do not apply to the cargo tanks of combined chemical/oil tankers complying with the provisions of the IBC Code (i.e. as long as a tanker has certification as a chemical tanker in accordance with the IBC Code, no matter whether its cargo tanks have internal structural elements or not, Permanent Means of Access are not required). However, the provisions do apply to the ballast tanks of these vessels.
  • page 9, Table 1, paragraph 1.1.6 - deletion of previous text aimed to remove possible confusion regarding preference given to vertical ladders in smaller ships. The current text leaves it up to the owner to decide on the most appropriate alternative for means of access.
  • page 10 - Table 1, right column, paragraph 2.2.1 - improved text to suggest that easy access to the upper knuckle point could be achieved by an extension of the longitudinal continuous Permanent Means of Access in way of the web frame.

The sequence of the implementation of this rule and of the subsequent amendments is as follows:

  1. SOLAS II-1/3-6 (the regulation), as adopted in December 2002, enters into force on 1 July 2004 and becomes operative as from 1 January 2005.
  2. The Technical Provisions, as initially adopted with SOLAS II-1/3-6 in December 2002, will apply as from 1 January 2005.
  3. The amendments to SOLAS II-1/3-6 will be circulated for adoption through a tacit acceptance procedure. They will then come into force on 1 July 2005 and become operative from 1 January 2006.
  4. The amended Technical Provisions will then become operative from 1 January 2006.
  5. MSC 78 has issued a Circular encouraging Flag Administrations to accept that, instead of the original SOLAS II-1/3-6 and the original Technical Provisions, ships built before 1 January 2006 could use the amended versions even though these have not yet come into force or become operative.
  6. However, the requirement will be that ships built until 1 January 2006, if they choose to use the amended version of the SOLAS regulation and the amended version of the Technical Provisions, will then have to apply ALL the new provisions.

Contact: Dragos Rauta