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Maritime Safety

Volume 696: debated on Wednesday 5 December 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Triesman on 19 February (WA 202) and in light of the recent maritime accident in Antarctic waters, what developments have taken place concerning the provision of ice strengthening and the hull type of ships operating in ice-covered waters. [HL557]

International regulations (in the International Maritime Organisation's International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974, as amended) require that ships shall be designed, constructed and maintained in compliance with the structural requirements of a classification society. Any ice strengthening of ships' hulls for operation in ice-covered polar waters is decided by the ship owner in consultation with the classification society. The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) will be publishing early in 2008 an updated set of requirements that its members will be applying in order for a ship to be assigned one of seven ice classes, depending on the severity of the conditions expected to be encountered. The insurers of the vessel will take into account, in their assessment of a ship, any ice class that is assigned by a classification society to a ship that intends operating in such waters.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting guidelines for ships operating in ice-covered waters were endorsed by the International Maritime Organisation; and whether the cruise ship “Explorer” was conforming to the proposed regulations when it sank this month. [HL558]

The UK Government are actively participating both in the ongoing work at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM) and in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to review the safety and environmental protection standards applicable to ships operating in ice-covered Antarctic waters.

The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting has not yet adopted any such guidelines, but has agreed comments and recommendations as to how the existing IMO guidelines for ships in operating in ice-covered Arctic waters could be used as a basis for ships operating in ice-covered Antarctic waters. The IMO will consider this issue further at a meeting of one of its technical sub-committees in March 2008. The UK Government are keen to see this work at the IMO finalised as a priority.

The “Explorer” was registered not in the UK but in Liberia. It is not known if the vessel was complying with the existing IMO recommendations for ships operating in ice-covered Arctic waters. However, international regulations (in the International Maritime Organisation's International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974, as amended) require that casualty investigations are undertaken by the maritime administration of the country where the ship is registered and the pertinent findings of such investigations are submitted to the IMO.