Update on the development of IMO Performance Standards for Coating

In last week's Weekly News we gave a brief report from the IMO Design and Equipment Sub-committee's 49th session (DE 49) regarding further developments of mandatory performance standards for protective coatings of ballast tanks of all types of ships and of double-side skin spaces of bulk carriers of 150 m in length and upwards. The following is an update of the latest developments, which are detailed in the report of the Working Group on Performance Standards for Protective Coatings of 24 February 2006.

Although regarded as a "mission impossible", the DE 49 Working Group had managed to make considerable progress and produced a final draft with a few issues that still need to be agreed on at the Maritime Safety Committee's 81st session (MSC 81) in May 2006. The DE 49 Chair, Dr. Anneliese Jost of Germany, called the progress of this work a "miracle". It was the result of 14 hours-a-day hard negotiations from Monday until Thursday.  

The current status of the this activity can be summed up as follows: 

- Basic requirements for the coating system on ballast tanks. These can be seen in Table 1 in the link above. There are two criteria on which there was no agreement and which were left to be finalised at MSC 81: the Nominal Dry Film Thickness (NDFT), and the degree of dust quality rating for very small dust particles. All the other criteria were agreed upon and reported as such to MSC 81. There is uncertainty whether shipbuilding nations would attempt to re-open discussions on a few of these agreed criteria such as edge treatment and surface treatment after block erection. 

- Testing of products. There will be two testing methods: one for epoxy coatings (particularly new epoxy coatings) and for ship primers (when used) and a second more stringent test procedure for alternative coating systems. The latter test procedure was suggested by INTERTANKO and agreed upon despite initial resistance. There is wide experience with the application of epoxy coatings and thus considerable confidence in their performance over time if properly applied. Alternative coating systems might be new types of coatings that would require deviation from the performance standards under development. Since there is no experience with any new coating systems and since time cannot be scaled down, it is logical to adopt a more stringent test for alternative systems. In return, the Japanese request was accepted to retain as much as 70% of the shop primers but ONLY IF these are certified by passing the test for epoxy coatings.  

- Verification.  Anticipated as a difficult issue, the Working Group made a relatively easy compromise with the assistance of Norway, the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) and INTERTANKO. Greece expressed the view that Flag Administrations and Recognised Organisations should be more involved in the certification of coating systems. However, the majority of Flag Administrations did not want to be involved in verifying whether a test laboratory certification is done according to the standards and whether the shipyard's own procedures follow the performance standards for coating. 

- Application. There was a long debate on the early application of this standard to the double-side skin spaces of bulk carriers. The revised SOLAS regulation XII/6.3 (double sided bulk carriers) will enter into force on 1 July 2006 and it was recognised that there would be a need to implement the performance standards from that day. Therefore, the Working Group drafted an MSC circular on the early application of these standards. MSC 81 will discuss the issue and make a decision.  

- Adoption. The DE 49 Working Group recommended that the performance standards for coating are adopted by MSC 82 in December 2006, a target INTERTANKO considers to be realistic.- Coating of Void Spaces. DE 49 set up a correspondence group to initiate the development of a performance coating standard to be used on void spaces, with particular priority being given to void spaces in bulk carriers and tankers. 

Contact: Dragos Rauta