Outcome of the IMO SSE 6 meeting - from habitable life boat environments to Ro-Ro deck fires

The IMO sub-committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE) met in London on 4–8 March 2019. This statutory news summarizes the main topics discussed, such as, life-saving appliances, fire safety of Ro-Ro passenger ships, and on-board lifting appliances. All agreements made at the meeting are subject to final approval by MSC 101 in June 2019.
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Surveyor checking life boat

Relevant for ship owners/managers, design offices, shipyards, suppliers and flag states.

Safety objectives and functional requirements for life-saving appliances

SOLAS allows life-saving appliances and arrangements to deviate from prescriptive requirements, provided an equivalent level of safety is achieved and the intent of the requirements is met. To define that intent, goals, functional requirements and expected performance criteria for SOLAS Ch. III on life-saving appliances were agreed on. The draft amendments to the “Guidelines on alternative design and arrangements for SOLAS Chapters II-1 and III” (MSC.1/Circ.1212) are applicable to all cargo and passenger ships, however more relevant for passenger ships carrying, for example, large life boats exceeding the maximum carrying capacity of a “standard” LSA Code life boat (150 persons).

Ventilation of survival craft

The IMO is developing new ventilation requirements for survival craft to reduce the risk of overheating and high CO2 concentrations inside the craft. New ventilation requirements for totally enclosed life boats specifies a ventilation rate of at least 5 m3/hour/person. For alternative designs, the expected performance is that the CO2 concentration shall not be higher than 5000 ppm. Related LSA Code amendments are intended to be applicable to all cargo and passenger ships.

Prototype test requirements for ventilation of totally enclosed life boats, and design requirements for ventilation of other than totally enclosed life boats, will be further discussed at SSE 7 (March 2020).

Life-saving arrangements and appliances in polar waters

Draft interim guidelines for life-saving appliances on board ships operating in polar waters were finalized, providing recommendations for all ships, both new and existing. The guidelines outline recommendations for mitigating hazards, based on assessment criteria such as maximum expected time of rescue, icing of life-saving appliances, operation in extended periods of darkness, and abandonment into ice or on land.

It should be noted that the capacity of the survival craft may be affected by the recommendations to carry additional clothing, survival equipment and water. Actual capacity adjustment, if any, would depend on the overall LSA concept, also considering inter alia insulation and heating of the LSA.

Fire safety of new and existing Ro-Ro passenger ships

Measures for minimizing the incidences and consequences of fires on Ro-Ro spaces and special category spaces of new and existing Ro-Ro passenger ships were agreed. The draft interim guidelines address inter alia operational measures to reduce the risk associated with reefer units and electrical systems in general on Ro-Ro spaces, and further advice on how to best design fire safety systems on board new Ro-Ro passenger ships. Specific measures such as enhanced fire detection, CCTV and non-open Ro-Ro decks are advised for new Ro-Ro passenger ships. Vessels having DNV GL additional class notation F (A, M, C), 2018 or later editions, will be in line with this best practice.

Owners and ship operators are further advised to revisit existing Ro-Ro passenger ships having open Ro-Ro decks or weather decks to make sure that these have a sufficient distance between permanent openings in these open Ro-Ro spaces and survival craft.

On-board lifting appliances and anchor handling winches

A new draft SOLAS Chapter II-1/Regulations 3–13 was agreed on, intending to reduce the incidents of mechanical failure of lifting appliances and anchor handling winches on board ships. The draft requirements refer to class standards for design, construction and testing, and to industry standards for operational testing, inspection and maintenance. The draft SOLAS requirements for design, construction and testing of lifting appliances are intended to be applicable to lifting appliances with a capacity above a safe working load of 1,000 kg. The requirements to testing and thorough examination are intended to be made retroactive.

Associated guidelines for both lifting appliances and anchor handling winches will be further discussed at SSE 7.

Dry chemical powder fire extinguishing systems for LNG tankers

It was agreed that sodium bicarbonate should not be the main component in fixed dry chemical powder fire extinguishing systems for protection of ships carrying liquefied gases in bulk (IMO MSC.1/Circ. 1315), but that alternative agents passing relevant testing should be accepted.
Further discussions will take place at SSE 7 (March 2020).

Onshore power supply

Draft guidelines for safe operation of onshore power in ports will be further considered, including the necessity of amendments to SOLAS Chapters II-1 and II-2. It was agreed that the guidelines should be operational, leaving technical requirements to the appropriate instruments. The guidelines will be further discussed at SSE 7.


DNV GL recommends to monitor the outcome of MSC 101 in June 2019 and prepare for implementation of approved amendments to mandatory IMO instruments accordingly. The draft amendments agreed at SSE 6 are targeting an entry into force date of 1 January 2024. DNV GL will provide further information in due course.

Owners of Ro-Ro passenger vessels may note that some of the agreed draft recommendations to mitigate fire risk are also relevant for existing Ro-Ro passenger ships (e.g. operational measures).


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