IMO Symposium on the Future of Ship Safety Urges Comprehensive Review of Existing Safety Regulations


The IMO Symposium on the Future of Ship Safety, held on 10 and 11 June, at IMO Headquarters in London, has recommended that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) carries out a full review of the existing regulatory regime, in order to meet future needs and expectations.

Following two days of intense discussions on a wide range of issues impacting the future of ship safety, the Statement of the Participants of the Symposium recommends that IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) (which is meeting for its 92nd session from 12 to 21 June) should:

• consider how to improve data collection and increase its availability in order to support monitoring and development of safety regulations

• consider how to better integrate risk-based methodologies and the latest analysis techniques into the safety regulatory framework to provide a sound scientific and practicable basis for the development of future safety regulations

• consider ways of encouraging a safety culture beyond mere compliance with regulatory requirements

• take into account the burden any new or changing regulation(s) place on the seafarers and consider how this burden can be minimized; and

• consider undertaking a long-term comprehensive review of the existing safety regulatory framework with a view to ensuring that it will meet the future challenges associated with the application of new technologies, the human element, the needs of the maritime industry and the expectations of society, taking into account the ever-increasing pace of change and technological advancements made since the 1974 SOLAS and the International Load Lines Conventions were adopted.

Speaking at the close of the Symposium, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu said that the fascinating, stimulating and insightful Symposium had considered wide-ranging issues, relating to a more goal-based, risk-based approach.

“With regard to data collection: there is no doubt that more and better data, and the use of the latest methods to analyse them, are central to the development of future regulations based on risk,” Mr. Sekimizu said.

“Second, there is no doubt in my mind that a safety culture that goes beyond mere compliance is essential in the future. Ships will become more complex and, as they do, we must move away from safety being simply a series of box-ticking exercises. That approach is not good enough now, and the administrative burden must be reduced,” he said.

“Third – and this is perhaps the most far reaching – you have considered whether the current safety regulatory framework is appropriate for responding to the future challenges and innovation and new technology associated with the ever-increasing sizes of ships and the need for compliance with environmental regulations; and, if we should change the safety system, how should we do that?” Mr. Sekimizu said.

Mr. Sekimizu also highlighted the symposium’s focus on the human element; the need for self-regulation; and education and training.

“The serious challenge maritime training institutes are now facing is to keep up with new technology and this must be addressed.  Currently, the shipping industry is facing serious financial difficulties but it needs to comply with regulations for marine environment protection,” he said. “Discussion on the future must cover all issues relating to ensuring competent seafarers free of stress and fatigue; support for seafarers must be continuously addressed at IMO.”

The symposium was attended by some 500 delegates (which includes remote participants) who had the opportunity to pose questions to six international panels of high-level speakers from across the broad spectrum of ship design, construction, equipment, operation and regulation.






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