Mandatory reporting of lost containers

Mandatory reporting of lost containers – draft SOLAS and MARPOL requirements agreed


The Sub-Committee agreed draft new requirements for mandatory reporting of lost freight containers at sea.

Containers lost overboard can be a serious hazard to navigation and safety at sea in general, in particular to recreational sailing vessels, fishing vessels and other small craft, as well as to the marine environment. The work of the Sub-Committee on detection and reporting of lost containers is also relevant to the Organization’s work on addressing marine litter.

The Sub-Committee agreed draft amendments to the SOLAS and MARPOL treaties.

The draft amendments to SOLAS chapter V, on safety of navigation, will be submitted to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), with a view to approval by MSC 107 (spring 2023) and subsequent adoption by MSC 108  (autumn 2023).  The draft amendments add new paragraphs to SOLAS chapter V Regulation 31 on Danger messages. They would require the master of every ship involved in the loss of freight container(s), shall communicate the particulars of such an incident by appropriate means without delay and to the fullest extent possible to ships in the vicinity, to the nearest coastal State, and also to the flag State.  The flag State would be required to report the loss of freight containers to IMO.

The draft amendments also add a new paragraph to  SOLAS chapter V Regulation 32 on Information required in danger messages, specifying the information to be reported, including, where available, position, number of containers, etc.

The draft amendment to the article V of protocol I of the MARPOL Convention– Provisions concerning reports on incidents involving harmful substances, under Article V on reporting procedures, would add a new paragraph to say that “In case of the loss of freight container(s), the report required by article II (1) (b) shall be made in accordance with the provisions of SOLAS regulations V/31 and V/32.”

The Sub-Committee agreed that that the draft amendments should enter into force on 1 January 2026. It was agreed that the IMO Secretariat would develop the relevant module under the IMO Global Integrated shipping Information System (GISIS) for the receipt of reports from flag States.

Information provided to the Sub-Committee by the World Shipping Council indicates that, based on their estimates, there were on average a total of 1,382 containers lost at sea each year in  the 12-year period (2008-2019). There are over 6,000 containerships continuously operating on the world’s seas. In 2019, the international liner shipping industry transported approximately 226 million containers, with cargo transported valued at more than US$4 trillion.

Safety of alternative fuels – guidelines for LPG agreed and development for hydrogen and ammonia further progressed

The Sub-Committee continued its work on the safety provisions related to fuels other than fuel oil and low flashpoint fuel. This work is part of the important work being carried out by the Sub-Committee in the context of shipping’s need for new fuels and propulsion systems to meet decarbonisation ambitions set out in the Initial IMO GHG Strategy.

Matters related to newer types of fuel are considered under the agenda item on the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code). The IGF Code, which entered into force in 2017, aims to minimize the risk to ships, their crews and the environment, given the nature of the fuels involved. It has initially focused on liquefied natural gas (LNG), but work is now underway to consider other relevant fuel types.

Interim guidelines for the safety of ships using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel have already been developed by the Sub-Committee and were approved by the MSC in 2020 (MSC.1/Circ.1621). Interim guidelines for ships using fuel cells were adopted by MSC 105 in April 2022 (MSC.1/Circ.1647).

Draft interim guidelines for the safety of ships using LPG fuels agreed

The Sub-Committee agreed the draft Interim Guidelines for the safety of ships using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) LPG and the associated draft MSC circular, for submission to MSC 107.

The basic philosophy of these Interim Guidelines is to provide provisions for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using LPG as fuel to minimize the risk to the ship, its crew and the environment, having regard to the nature of the fuels involved.

The Sub-Committee invited interested member states and international organizations to develop guidance for LPG bunkering to assist crews, bunker suppliers and ports in delivering LPG fuel to ships.

Correspondence group re-established

The intersessional Correspondence Group on Development of technical provisions for safety of ships using alternative fuels was re-established, to:

  • further develop the draft interim guidelines for ships using hydrogen as fuel;
  • develop Interim Guidelines for the use of oil fuels with a flashpoint between 52°C and 60°C, covering oil-based fossil fuels, synthetic fuels, biofuels and any mixture thereof;
  • develop Interim Guidelines for the safety of ships using ammonia as fuel.

International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG Code) – draft amendments 

The Sub-Committee discussed a number of important draft amendments to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG Code), including those related to carbon, lithium batteries and fuel cell cartridges. The next set of amendments is set to be included in draft amendment 42-24 to the IMDG Code (to be adopted in 2024).

Serious incidents caused by fires originating from vehicles

The Sub-Committee discussed a proposal to replace IMDG Code special provisions (SP) 961 and 962 with a new special provision in response to recent fire incidents occurring on vehicle carriers.  In light of continued reports of serious incidents caused by fires originating from vehicles, and as a matter of priority, the Sub-Committee established a Correspondence Group on the Review of Transport Provisions for Vehicles to: continue consideration of amendments to transport provisions for vehicles; develop and prepare suitable measures to address the hazards arising from shipments of vehicles in the provisions of the IMDG Code; and submit a report to CCC 9.

Vehicles are transported under SP 961 or 962 of the IMDG Code. SP961 provides exceptions from dangerous goods regulations for vehicles when certain conditions are met. SP962 outlines the requirements for vehicles not meeting the conditions of SP961 and emphasizes that the marking, labelling, placarding and marine pollutant provisions of the Code are not applicable to vehicles transported under SP962.

Provision 5.5.4 of the IMDG Code – Dangerous goods in equipment in use or intended for use during transport

The Sub-Committee agreed the draft amendments to provision 5.5.4 of the IMDG Code, with a view to incorporation, as appropriate, into draft amendment 42-24 to the IMDG Code and instruct the Secretariat to inform the United Nations Transport of Dangerous Goods (UNTDG) body on the draft amendments.

The draft amendments replace and update the provisions related to devices in use or intended for use during transport, such as data loggers, sensors and cargo trackers that contain dangerous goods (e.g. lithium batteries, fuel cell cartridges) and that are attached to or placed in packages, overpacks, bulk containers, freight containers, or other types of cargo transport units.

The requirements include that devices shall be capable of withstanding the shocks and loadings normally encountered during transport. Devices attached directly to the interior or exterior of cargo transport units shall comply with the specific criteria relating to maximum service temperature and device protection.

Grain Code amendments agreed

The Sub-Committee agreed draft amendments to the International Code for the Safe Carriage of Grain in Bulk (Grain Code), for submission to MSC 107 for approval. The draft amendments introduce a new class of loading conditions for “specially suitable compartment, partly filled in way of the hatch opening, with ends untrimmed” and specify the requirements under which grain may be carried in such compartments.

This article is shared by courtesy of IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships. IMO’s work supports the UN SDGs.​

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