MSC 84 - Fixed Hydrocarbon Gas Detection on double hull tankers

Members may recall previous reports on the European Union (EU) and industry initiative at the IMO to suggest that the current standards for gas detection adopted by the majority of double hull tankers be mandated through an amendment to the SOLAS Convention.


The proposed amendment would require fixed hydrocarbon gas detection systems to be installed in the ballast and void spaces of double hull tankers to ensure early detection of any cargo migration during the laden voyage.


In the proposed amendment it was left up to the ship master to identify the measures to be taken should hydrocarbon vapours be detected in ballast tanks and/or void spaces. The International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals (ISGOTT) provides industry guidelines, and masters can take various appropriate actions in such cases. One such action could be the inerting of these spaces.


France, Finland and Germany have, however, submitted a new paper to the IMO suggesting that the agenda item be expanded so that consideration be given to whether the inerting of spaces where hydrocarbon gases are detected should be stipulated as the required action.


The Oil Companies' International Marine Forum (OCIMF), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), INTERTANKO and the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) advised the MSC that the SOLAS regulations require tankers to have means of inerting double hull spaces, that the industry has the necessary guidelines to take action and that the suggestion from France, Finland and Germany would only unnecessarily limit the ship master's choices.


Despite strong advice from the industry, MSC 84 agreed to expand the scope of this rulemaking based on the support given by a few of the EU Governments. One immediate consequence will be that the completion date of this rulemaking will be delayed one more year, until 2010.


Meanwhile, tankers do have fixed hydrocarbon gas detection systems and they will safely transport hydrocarbons while waiting for the IMO to decide on a standard that has already been in practice for many years.


Contact: Dragos Rauta