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SOLAS – Mandatory Enclosed Space Entry and Rescue Drills

In May 2013 the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) adopted amendments to SOLAS Regulation III/19 which added a new requirement for mandatory enclosed space entry and rescue drills.

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From 1 January 2015 all persons involved in enclosed space entries, and / or assigned enclosed space rescue duties, will be required to take part in enclosed space entry and rescue drills at intervals not exceeding two months.

The amendments to SOLAS Chapter III are detailed in IMO Resolution MSC.350(92), which requires the following in relation to enclosed space entry and rescue drills [hyperlinks added]:

“3.3 Crew members with enclosed space entry or rescue responsibilities shall participate in an enclosed space entry and rescue drill to be held on board the ship at least once every two months.

3.6 Enclosed space entry and rescue drills

3.6.1 Enclosed space entry and rescue drills should be planned and conducted in a safe manner, taking into account, as appropriate, the guidance provided in the recommendations developed by the Organization.

3.6.2 Each enclosed space entry and rescue drill shall include:

.1            checking and use of personal protective equipment required for entry;

.2            checking and use of communication equipment and procedures;

.3            checking and use of instruments for measuring the atmosphere in enclosed spaces;

.4            checking and use of rescue equipment and procedures; and

.5            instructions in first aid and resuscitation techniques.

4.2 Every crew member shall be given instructions which shall include but not necessarily be limited to:

.5            risks associated with enclosed spaces and onboard procedures for safe entry into such spaces which should take into account, as appropriate, the guidance provided in recommendations developed by the Organization.”

Although SOLAS requirements do not apply to vessels of less than 500 gross tonnes, or vessels which are not engaged on international voyages, some administrations may introduce national legislation extending the new regulation to vessels not covered by SOLAS.

Members are advised to ensure their Safety Management Systems are updated to reflect this development and to implement such drills in good time before the new requirement enters into force.

Portable Gas Detectors

At the next MSC meeting in November 2014, it is expected that IMO will approve amendments to SOLAS in the form of new regulation XI-1/7, making it mandatory for all vessels to carry portable gas detectors. As a minimum, portable gas detectors will need to be capable of testing for concentrations of oxygen, flammable gas, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide prior to entering enclosed spaces.

This requirement is expected to enter into force on 1 July 2016. However, it is likely that IMO, following adoption, will urge early voluntary compliance with this regulation from 1 January 2015 to coincide with the new enclosed space entry and rescue drill requirement.

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