NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
Heike Deggim, Director, Maritime Safety Division at IMO
By Sea and Coast | 16/07/2019

How would you describe the main role of the Maritime Safety Committee?

The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is IMO’s senior technical body on all matters related to maritime safety and security, promulgating rules and regulations addressing a wide variety of subjects. This includes issues like ship design, construction and equipment, ship stability and subdivision, fire protection, life-saving appliances, navigation, radio communications, search and rescue, carriage of cargoes and containers, piracy, cyber security, the human element, training and watch keeping. It is also involved with the implementation of IMO instruments under its auspices. 

The MSC is the custodian of the instruments developed to address the above issues, such as the SOLAS Convention and related Codes, the Load Line and Tonnage Measurement Conventions, the Collision Regulations and the STCW Convention, to name just a few of the most important. As the regulatory body, the Committee deals with issues proposed by our Member States, of which there are currently 174. 

The Maritime Safety Division in the IMO Secretariat supports the work of the Committee and undertakes all Secretariat functions assigned to it. As the Director of the Division I also fulfill the function of Secretary of the Committee. 

Since joining IMO in 1993 how has your journey with IMO been? 

I graduated in 1983 with a master’s degree in marine engineering from Rostock University in my home country of Germany. When I joined IMO in 1993, I had behind me several years of experience working in the naval shipbuilding industry and later as Senior Researcher at the Shipbuilding Faculty of Rostock University, resulting in a PhD in fishing technology, followed by various positions in the German Maritime Administration dealing, among other things, with tonnage measurement of ships and issuing of Tonnage Certificates. 

One of my first assignments in IMO was acting as the Secretary of the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation and later the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment, before being appointed as Head of Marine Technology, with overall responsibility for the technical sub-committees dealing with ship design and equipment; stability, load lines and fishing vessels safety; and fire protection; as well as later taking a leading role in the development and implementation of the goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers and the associated verification scheme.  

I then worked for several years in the position of Senior Deputy Director in IMO’s Marine Environment Division, dealing with matters related to MARPOL, air pollution and energy efficiency of ships, reduction of GHG emissions, ballast water management, ship recycling, anti-fouling and biofouling, evaluation of chemicals; as well as being majorly involved with the running of the Marine Environment Protection Committee and the Sub‑Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response. In January 2018 I was promoted to my current position of Director of the Maritime Safety Division.

Keeping in view recent incidents involving mis-declaration of cargo leading to fire and structural damage to vessels. Have you thought about a policy to deter such cases in future? 

We always look in detail at the recommendations arising from investigations of marine casualties and the issue of mis-declaration of cargoes has been one of the focus items of the Committee over the last few years.  

The IMO body dealing with these matters is the Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC) which deals with cargo operations, including packaged dangerous goods; solid bulk cargoes; bulk gas cargoes; containers and the evaluation of related safety and pollution hazards; as well as the survey and certification of ships carrying hazardous cargoes.   

The CCC Sub-Committee meets annually and aims to ensure the further enhancement of the safety and security culture and environmental consciousness in all cargo and container operations. For this purpose, it cooperates with other relevant UN bodies, IGOs and NGOs on the development and implementation of related international standards.  

Of special importance in this regard are the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) and the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Codes. Their proper implementation will go a long way to address incidents with all kinds of cargoes, as well as containers, transported on ships. For this reason, they are regularly reviewed, revised and amended, taking into account latest developments as well as lessons learned from casualties. 

With IMO’s 2020 regulation regarding SOx and NOx emissions, the vessels which don't comply have to go out of business, Due to imbalance in vessel supply and demand sea-borne trade will be impacted due to high freight costs. What is your opinion on this? 

It is important to remember that the sulphur limit for fuel oil used on board ships coming into force on 1 January 2020 is aimed at making the air we breathe cleaner. Air pollution is a huge problem, particularly for the health of people living in coastal areas and near ports. We all have to do our bit to limit air pollution.   

Of course, changes in regulations can involve costs – costs which ultimately have to be shared by everyone, including consumers. Shipowners need to prepare for the new limit of 0.50% for sulphur in fuel oil. It needs to be kept in mind that the original MARPOL regulation limiting the sulphur content of fuel oil was adopted in 2008, giving owners and operators a substantial period of time to adjust to the new requirements. 

Any technical issues resulting form the use of low-sulphur fuel oil will be addressed by the Maritime Safety Committee, which for that purpose included a dedicated item on the matter in its agenda for its forthcoming 101st meeting in June of this year.

IMO and other maritime bodies from time to time have introduced various regulations. Do you feel that industry is overwhelmed with rules and regulations?

Regulation is necessary. Without global universal standards there would be chaos, with different regional or national rules applying in different parts of the world. This certainly would cause enormous problems for international trade and it is obvious that for a global business like shipping international standards are a must. When IMO looks at proposals for new regulations, the potential administrative burden for IMO Member States and the shipping industry is taken into consideration.  

Having said that, during the last few years, the emphasis has indeed shifted towards implementation of existing regulations, rather than the development of new ones.  IMO’s Technical Cooperation Division administers the IMO Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP), which is designed to assist Governments which lack the technical knowledge and resources that are needed to operate a shipping industry safely and efficiently.

In particular, this is aimed at helping developing countries to improve their ability to comply with international rules and standards relating to maritime safety and the prevention and control of marine pollution, focusing on human resources development and institutional capacity-building. 

You are a naval architect by qualification, what structural changes do you feel should happen to prevent oil pollution after a vessel collision?

Actually, my background is marine engineering, but over my working life I have of course dealt with a variety of ship design related issues. 

IMO has been working for more than 60 years on preventing oil pollution from ships, along with Member State and industry, including the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS).  

Statistics compiled by the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd (ITOPF), show a 90% reduction in the number of major oil spills and a hundred-fold reduction in the volume of oil spilt since the 1970s, highlighting the real, tangible benefit of governments and industry working together to reduce oil spills over the decades. In 2016, the total volume of crude oil transported by ship was 1,770 million metric tons and 99.99% of this arrived safely at its destination. 

It is obvious from the statistics that the work done to date, such as the adoption of double hull requirements for tankers in the 1990s, has been instrumental in reducing oil spills.

Furthermore, the goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers adopted in 2010 as mandatory requirements under the SOLAS Convention, ensure that any new oil tanker is built to satisfy applicable structural requirements, taking into account the goals prescribed by the standards. Essentially, goal-based standards permit innovative designs but, at the same time, ensure that ships are constructed in such a manner that, if properly maintained, they remain safe for their entire economic life. 

I don’t have a crystal ball to say what future innovative designs might look like, but I am confident that with the goal-based standards in place we have a robust regulatory system which does allow for innovation, but at the same time ensures that the good record we now have on reducing oil pollution is maintained.  

There was a recent research which has found that maritime paints may be cause of pollution. If this is true what are the steps ship yards should take to minimize the risk?

I think you may be referring to the study on “Hull scrapings and marine coatings as a source of microplastics”, made possible through funding from the UN Environment-led Global Partnership for Marine Litter (GPML). This study is a literature review to assess current knowledge and data regarding marine coatings as microplastics sources and identifies important data gaps. It makes suggestions for subsequent research into whether ship coatings are an important source of microplastics released into the oceans.  

This matter has only been raised fairly recently and the study is saying that further research into this potential source of microplastics is needed. Given the fact that this is an issue very much in the public eye, I am sure that as soon as results are available the Member States will raise it at IMO so that relevant global regulations can be considered. 

The maritime stakeholders are looking for a global maritime policy to benchmarked and streamline maritime operations standards globally. What do you feel are the key aspects policy makers must keep in mind?

To my knowledge a global maritime policy does not exist. The IMO Council regularly considers trends, developments and challenges facing the maritime sector and has agreed on strategic directions which could form the backbone of a global maritime policy. The current key aspects, set out as the strategic directions for IMO in its strategic plan, are the following; and I am of the view that this is also what policy makers should have foremost in their minds when considering national maritime policies:

·Improve implementation (effective and globally uniform implementation of IMO instruments).

·Integrate new technologies in the regulatory framework, balancing benefits against safety and security concerns.

·Respond to climate change (i.e. take measures to address climate change issues).

·Engage in ocean governance (to keep the oceans as clean as possible while ensuring the sustainable development of activities in the marine space).

·Enhance global facilitation of international trade, balancing facilitation with safety, security and environmental concerns.

·Ensure regulatory effectiveness by feeding back experience gained with the implementation of instruments in order to identify improvements and the need for new measures.

·Ensure organizational effectiveness by enhancing working practices of national maritime authorities, including port authorities.

In the present scenario where technological advancement in vessel operations has brought about autonomous ships . How do you feel this will impact the morale of the seafarers and especially young seafarers just starting their career at sea ? 

At the moment, there are only a few autonomous ships in operation, mainly local ferries and small boats used for research purposes or for surveys. The prospect of large numbers of autonomous ships roaming the oceans is a long way off. I think for young seafarers, they can be sure that any skills they learn at sea will be useful in the future for various maritime-related jobs – perhaps even those related to autonomous ships. People will still be needed for ship operation.   

At IMO, we have begun a regulatory scoping exercise to look into how maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) should be regulated. This exercise is assessing various IMO instruments to see how they may apply to ships with varying degrees of autonomy. Once the assessment is completed, the second step will be conducted, i.e. analyzing and determining the most appropriate way of addressing MASS operations, taking into account, inter alia, the human element, technology and operational factors. 

Today, more than ever, seafaring is a job that demands highly trained and qualified personnel. Modern ships are designed and built to the highest technical standards. The emphasis must, therefore, increasingly be on ensuring that standards of manning and operation are equally high. Concerns have been raised about how the work on MASS may affect the work of seafarers in the future. When we look further at possible regulation of autonomous ships, this will of course be carefully considered. But it is also obvious that any changes in an industry may lead to job function changes and changes in the skills required. This is something that training institutions and the shipping industry will need to look at and be aware of.

The technologies like 3 D printers have augmented the design industry , do you feel that the same technology can be used in shipbuilding to bring out safe and innovative designs ?

New technologies are being developed at an ever-faster pace and this is of course also true for the shipping industry. An important driving factor is the curren ongoing work to address ships’ emissions. 

Regarding the use of 3D printers in ship design and construction, I am not aware that this is currently taking place at a larger scale, although I know that there are a few cases where the technology has been used successfully. In particular this concerns the manufacture of spare and other metallic parts or components. Lloyd’s Register has developed Guidance Notes for Additive Manufacturing of Metallic Parts, and ISO and IEC have published various standards addressing additive manufacturing (AM), as 3D printing is also known. 

In my view, the advantages are obvious, just think of how useful it would be to be able to produce spare parts directly on board, especially if you are in the middle of the ocean, far away from any repair facilities. While the matter is currently at an early stage of development and issues like quality assurance of any parts so produced certainly need addressing, I would assume that we will hear much more about 3D printing in shipping in the near future. 

In the past you have been part of Flag of state implementation Sub-Committee, Flag of convenience is still a issue as the standards of manning and surveys is not maintained my many open registries. What is your opinion in this regard?

The Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI) was established and first met in 1992. Today the work has been subsumed into the Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III).  

The III Sub-Committee brings together flag, port and coastal States to consider implementation issues, including the analysis of consolidated audit summary reports resulting from the mandatory IMO Member State Audit Scheme. The Sub-Committee has a key role in casualty analysis and issuing lessons learned from marine incidents. It receives and analyses port State control data and keeps under review the Procedures for Port State Control. Guidelines for survey and certification, including the Survey Guidelines under the Harmonized System of Survey and Certification (HSSC), also come under the remit of this Sub-Committee.

Here in IMO we do not use the term “flags of convenience”. Some registries operate as what you might call “open registries” and some operate as “national registries” with differing tax and other obligations for companies, nationality of crew and so on. The applicable standards for ship safety, operation and pollution prevention are the same globally, regardless of flag, and they all use the IMO regulations and requirements as minimum standards. Of course, the quality of registries can differ enormously, but this is not along the fault lines of “open” versus “national” registries.   

Many of the open registries deliver quality oversight of the ships under their flag and care very much about their reputation which, in my view, makes perfect business sense; especially if you want to attract quality ships to your register. 

DNV GL has launched remote survey of all the vessels , how do you perceive the development ,will it be as effective as personal survey by a surveyor when it comes to maintenance of a sea worthy vessel ?

I think the use of drones, which I assume is what you are referring to, will certainly facilitate a number of surveys. Just think of big cargo holds where often scaffolding is needed to enable surveyors to properly carry out their duties or confined spaces such as double bottoms. In such cases these surveys can be potentially quite dangerous for the surveyors. However, the matter of remote surveys has not (yet) been discussed here in IMO and we would need some feedback on their use. The current Code on the enhanced programme of inspections during surveys of bulk carriers and oil tankers, the ESP Code, does not contain provisions for remote surveys.  However, IACS has already informed us that they are working on requirements for surveys using drones, so I would expect that this matter will be brought to the MSC for consideration sooner rather than later. 

However, I am also sure that for certain mandatory surveys, the skilled eye of a trained surveyor in situ will still be needed for a long time yet. Ultimately it will be up to IMO Member States to decide in the future if they wish to change the current requirements.