New global maritime rules have been implemented in a bid to reduce the number of shipping accidents on the sea.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has come up with a new set of amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and various codes mandatory under the convention. The new amendments came into force in January 1, 2020.
According to IMO, some of the amendments include addressing lifeboat maintenance where the organisation is advocating for preventing accidents with lifeboats.
Locally, there have been several cases of marine accidents in Kenya. Last year, a woman and her daughter perished after their vehicle slipped from a ferry that was crossing the Likoni channel.
There have been also cases of Kenyans drowning in Lamu when their boat capsized. Similar cases have been reported on Lake Victoria on several occasions.
Amendments to SOLAS regulations III/3 and III/20 make mandatory the requirements for maintenance, thorough examination, operational testing, overhaul and repair of lifeboats and rescue boats, launching appliances and release gear.
“This package of provisions aims to prevent accidents with survival craft and addresses longstanding issues such as the need for a uniform, safe and documented standard related to the servicing of these appliances, as well as the authorization, qualification and certification requirements to ensure that a reliable service is provided,” IMO said in a statement.
“The intention is to ensure that seafarers are confident that they can fully rely on the survival craft at their disposal, which should comply with applicable SOLAS requirements.”
A set of amendments to SOLAS chapter II-1 relating to subdivision and stability have entered into force, amending, among other things, the regulations on the required subdivision of passenger ships to increase their safety, as well as regulations related to the stability information to be provided to a ship's master.
“The amendments were developed following a substantive review of SOLAS chapter II-1, focusing in particular on new passenger ships. The review took into account recommendations arising from the investigation into the 2012 Costa Concordia casualty,” IMO said in its statement released late December.
One of the requirements for all new ships carrying more than 36 passengers is to be built with evacuation analysis early in the design process.
“The amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/13 extend the requirements for evacuation analysis to all passenger ships. The analysis should be used to identify and eliminate, as far as practicable, congestion which may develop during abandonment due to normal movement of passengers and crew along escape routes, including the possibility that crew may need to move along these routes in a direction opposite to the movement of passengers,” IMO said.
“ In addition, the analysis should be used to demonstrate that escape arrangements are sufficiently flexible to provide for the possibility that certain escape routes, assembly stations, embarkation stations or survival craft may not be available as a result of a casualty.”
The amendments also calls for expanding maritime satellite communications equipment providers.
“Amendments to chapter IV of SOLAS and some codes provide for a ‘recognized mobile satellite service’ to be installed for maritime distress and safety communications. Previously, the regulations specified an Inmarsat device,” said the statement.
A statement from the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) to Shipping and Logistics said the organisation has made several efforts to make sure that vessels using Kenyan waters follow all the best practices to avert any fatalities. “Article 2(6) of the Kenya Constitution, 2010 provides for treaty or convention ratified by Kenya to form part of the Kenya law. Thus all subsequent amendments to the treaties would also become enforceable under the law,” said KMA.
Moreover, the Authority said it is domesticating the maritime conventions by drafting bills and regulations and initiating amendments to existing legislation to comply withglobal treaties.
“In regard to thereferenced SOLAS amendments, the Authority has initiated the process of incorporating them in the legal framework,” KMA said in its statement.
KMA said article 255 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 2009 provides for sanctions to be imposed on the owner and master of the ship who fail to comply with the provisions of the act which include fines or/and imprisonment.
“As per the Merchant Act as amended, there are several fines imposed on those who flout maritime safety rules. For example Section 15 (3) is requirement for insurance cover and states that where a ship is in contravention of this section, the owner shall be deemed to have committed an offence and shall be liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding one million shillings, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both such fine and imprisonment,” KMA said.
The agency said in its statement that it has put in place a robust Port State Control and Flag State Control regime which ensures that foreign vessels visiting our ports and vessels in the Kenyan Registry are compliant with the standards set out in the convention respectively.
“Additionally, Kenya is a committed member of the Indian Ocean Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (IOMOU). The country continues to cooperate with Member States to enhance the region's maritime safety infrastructure, as well as requirements in accordance with the international maritime conventions to keep away sub-standard ships from the region,” KMA added.
However, like other sector players, KMA said it has faced several challenges which include incorporation of amendments into the legal framewor — a lengthy process which involves various stakeholders.
“This causes delay in the implementation and enforcement of the amendments,” the KMA statement said.