IMO takes first steps in developing Goal-Based Standards

As previously reported, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) Maritime Safety Committee’s 79th session (MSC 79) has been addressing a new concept intended to bring the IMO into regulating the standards for the design and construction of new ships. The item is called “Goal-Based Ship Construction Standards” or more simply Goal-Based Standards (GBS). The work has been assigned to a Working Group, which for this session has drafted a first set of Basic Principles of the GBS which, although still open to further developments, are as follows:

“IMO goal-based standards are:

  • broad, over-arching safety, environmental and/or security standards that ships are required to meet during their life cycle;
  • the required level to be achieved by the requirements applied by class societies and other recognised organisations, Administrations and the IMO;
  • clear, demonstrable, verifiable, long standing, implementable and achievable irrespective of ship design and technology;
  • specific enough in order not to be open to differing interpretations.”

GBS, which will be applicable to all ships, have one overall safety objective, namely that

“ships are to be designed and constructed for a specified design life to be safe and environmentally friendly, when properly operated and maintained under the envisaged operating and environmental conditions, in intact and foreseeable damage conditions throughout their life.”

This safety objective will be ensured through compliance with a set of Functional Requirements, such as:

  • design life,
  • environmental conditions (under which the ship is intended to operate),
  • fatigue life,
  • structural strength (to include a suitable safety margin to withstand, at net scantlings, construction workmanship errors, material imperfections and, in the intact condition, the environmental conditions anticipated during the ship’s design life, for the appropriate loading conditions),
  • residual strength
  • structural accessibility (meaning a design that provides adequate means of access to all internal structures to facilitate overall and close-up inspections and thickness measurements),
  • construction quality procedures,
  • maintenance (ships should be designed and constructed to facilitate ease of maintenance),
  • design transparency (reliable, controlled and transparent process made accessible to the extent necessary to confirm the safety of a new ship),
  • coating life,
  • corrosion additions, etc. 

The Working Group had very little time to discuss the Verification and Implementation Procedures that would assess whether, according to the rules and regulations developed by the classification societies, the designs and the construction standards are meeting GBS.

The process is difficult and there is no unanimous understanding of how to develop it. For the moment, there are two schools of thought. One is to establish the GBS on a more prescriptive manner (pre-set values for the design life, coating life, fatigue life, etc.). The second strongly advocates that the GBS are set through a risk-based exercise by using the formal Safety Assessment as a tool. The next opportunity to continue these developments will be at the next MSC session (MSC 80) in May 2005.

These first provisional results appear to be in line with the views expressed in the INTERTANKO submission (click hereto download a copy of the submission.)

Contact: Dragos Rauta