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IACS Council highlights decarbonisation safety issues

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The 84th session of the IACS Council has highlighted the significant safety challenges around decarbonisation. The centrality of the human element in increasingly technically sophisticated vessels and the importance of maintaining IACS’ Quality Scheme as a guarantor of its members’ demonstrable, high-quality performance were other focus areas.

Meeting again by videoconference due to the restrictions of the Omicron variant, C84 was chaired by Nick Brown, CEO of Lloyd’s Register and comes shortly after COP26 and IMO’s MEPC 77.

Noting the markedly increased expectations for an ambitious and accelerated greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction policy for shipping, IACS Council emphasised that the successful delivery of any agreed targets must recognise the need for a practical and achievable implementation plan.

Building on its submission to IMO’s Assembly (A 32/12/2) C84 discussed ways in which introducing the necessary alternative technologies and fuels must not happen without detailed safety requirements that support the design, fabrication and integration of equipment for systems and ships.

C84 recognised that the unique, multi-disciplinary nature of the challenge, its scale and compressed timeframes for delivery, and the lack of extant technical solutions to achieve the desired outcomes, warranted a dedicated and bespoke response. Accordingly, IACS Council agreed to hold an extraordinary Council meeting early in 2022 solely to give more time for agreeing structured and ambitious IACS actions to address decarbonisation.

Promoting the safety considerations that will accompany the use of new technologies and fuels was widely welcomed by the industry session that followed C84. There was unanimous support for establishing an effective assurance arrangement for the safety of decarbonisation solutions, with IACS’ unique ability to develop common technical requirements viewed as being a key contributor for delivering regulatory certainty.

Given the take up of new technology, C84 also focused on the role of the seafarer in this newly digitalised world and the changing nature of technology on board ships. IACS has long recognised the need to consider ships as complex systems, and systems of systems, and C84 initiated work on the dependency on the human component in those systems for safe operations.

On quality matters, C84 noted that IACS Quality System Certification Scheme (QSCS) remains the ‘gold standard’ for classification society performance but that, in the 30 years since its inception, many other quality driven initiatives had been established, complicating the overall picture. C84 therefore established a high-level working group, to include representation from its external and independent Quality Advisory Committee, to conduct a holistic overview of IACS Quality provisions with the objective of rationalising and enhancing quality oversight as part of IACS’ unceasing commitment to continuous improvement in this area.

C84 also marked six months of IACS’ new governance structures which have quickly increased the agility and responsiveness of the Association. Noting the additional demands this makes of the Association, Council Members reaffirmed their commitment to supporting IACS by further strengthening the new Technical Team based in the IACS Secretariat thus enhancing the ability to conduct at speed detailed technical discussions with the IMO and industry associations.

Owing to the continuing uncertainty caused by the pandemic, C84 also renewed the mandate of its COVID 19 Task Force noting that the swift and decisive actions of this group have been instrumental in developing and adopting measures that help ships safely remain in service and in compliance with Class Rules and the requirements of the international Conventions.

Speaking after the meeting, Nick Brown said ‘The wide-ranging discussions and agreements reached at C84 demonstrate clearly the key role that IACS plays in supporting the industry address complex challenges, many of which require sustained commitment and new ways of working. The new governance changes are demonstrating their effectiveness in helping deliver practical and implementable solutions.’

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