Tanker Safety

In 2013, IMO is expected to adopt some important regulatory changes following a major review of tanker safety. This was in response to a significant report by an Inter-Industry Working Group on Fires and Explosions on Board Tankers, to which ICS contributed with the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) and Intertanko, and which was presented to IMO following a sequence of sometimes fatal explosions on tankers during the last decade.

ICS has played an active part in the discussions at IMO on the extension of the practice of ‘inerting’ cargo tank atmospheres which led to an important decision with respect to new mandatory requirements for the inerting of chemical tankers. Once adopted, the requirements will apply to new ships over 8,000 dwt. Subject to the adoption of amendments to the SOLAS Convention and the IMO Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code during 2013, this development will be fully addressed in a new edition of the ICS Tanker Safety Guide (Chemicals) which ICS intends to publish in early 2014. 

ICS fully supports the application of inert gas (IG) to new oil and chemical tankers above 8,000 dwt. ICS has also welcomed IMO’s decision that the possible extension of new measures to existing tankers of less than 20,000 dwt will only be considered in the light of experience gained following introduction of IG on new ships of 8,000 to 20,000 dwt. This is fully consistent with ICS concern that questions remain with respect to the safety benefits and environmental impacts of extending inerting on a mandatory basis to existing and to smaller chemical tankers.

Meanwhile, a serious fire on board the ‘Stolt Valor’ that occurred in the Gulf during March 2012 (which also involved the drama of local ports refusing to provide a place of refuge for the stricken ship, contrary to IMO Guidelines) has produced new issues to consider. The flag state, Liberia, is to be commended for conducting its comprehensive accident investigation so quickly. The primary cause, as with several similar incidents, is understood to have been identified as a failure to follow established procedures. Liberia’s considered recommendations with respect to making tank atmospheres safe will be taken into full account in the final text of the new ICS Guide.

It is important to reiterate that, as with this recent chemical tanker incident, a disturbing conclusion of the original industry report that informed the IMO review was that otherwise competent and qualified seafarers are still prone to bypass accepted procedures. The solutions are complex, involving matters that do not always readily lend themselves to prescriptive regulations, such as how to further inculcate a genuine safety culture amongst ship’s crews, which the new edition of the ICS Tanker Safety Guide (Chemicals) will also seek to address.

Another important development in 2013 will be the publication by industry of a new consolidated edition of the Ship to Ship Transfer Guide. This combines and updates previous best practice publications dealing with STS operations by oil tankers and gas carriers with additional advice relevant to chemical tankers. This is a joint venture involving ICS in co-operation with OCIMF, the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO) and the Chemical Distribution Institute (CDI).

Meanwhile, work has commenced on a new edition of the ICS Tanker Safety Guide (Liquefied Gas). The carriage of LNG has matured and expanded since the current edition was produced, with many new operators having entered the trade. This revision will be a major undertaking, with publication not expected until 2015.

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