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Rules of the Road: Several new maritime regulations affect yachts in 2018


Rules of the Road: by Capt. Jake Desvergers

As we say goodbye to 2017 and welcome in the New Year, we look ahead to what awaits us in the world of maritime regulations. The various regulatory bodies were very busy and 2018 will exhibit many of those initiatives.  We will see several new regulations enter into force. Below is a summary of those changes that will affect new and existing yachts.

Polar Code

Jan. 1, 2018:  New chapter XIV of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) will now require all existing ships (and yachts) operating in polar waters to comply with these safety provisions. Previously, the Code only affected new vessels as of 2017. Safety provisions are applied to those ships designed to operate in ice conditions. Part I-A of the Code contains a requirement for a Polar Waters Operations Manual that contains ship-specific capabilities and limitations with specific procedures to be followed in normal operations, avoiding conditions that exceed the ship’s capabilities, and responding to incidents; maintaining adequate weathertight and watertight integrity through additional measures, such as preventing freezing of closing appliances; icing allowances for intact stability, and residual damage stability after withstanding flooding from unique damage penetration extents; protection of machinery, life-saving arrangements and firefighting equipment with regard to ice accretion, snow accumulation, ice ingestion from seawater, and freezing/increased viscosity of liquids; advanced training for Masters and Chief Mates and basic training for officers in charge of a navigational watch; and a conditional provision to allow an ice advisor to satisfy the training requirements.

Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW)

July 1, 2018:  The “Polar Code Amendments” are revisions to the STCW that are aimed at bringing the Convention and Code current with MSC.416(97). Those areas that affect the yachting industry include changes to licensing of officers and certification of crew for operations in polar regions.  Similar to other specialized training, such as Advanced Firefighting and ARPA/Radar, the new polar certification will be mandatory for deck officers.  The training must be revalidated every five years, but no endorsement may be required, depending on the flag-state of the yacht.

SOLAS – Firefighters:  Means of Communication

July 1, 2018:  For all commercial yachts of 500 gross tons and greater, each fireman’s outfit shall be fitted with a two-way portable radiotelephone that is explosion-proof or intrinsically safe (IS).  This regulation previously affected only those vessels newly constructed after July 1, 2014. The communication difficulty experienced by responders demonstrated a need for improved communication between each firefighter, plus their command center.  The specific requirement for IS-rated equipment will render most VHF and UHF radios as incompatible and noncompliant.  This new requirement was born from a major fire on board a tanker in drydock.

SOLAS – Noise Code

July 1, 2018:  All yachts of 1600 gross tons and greater need to comply with the new Noise Code as per MSC.337(91). The Code has mandatory and recommendatory provisions.  It sets out to prevent the occurrence of potentially hazardous noise levels on board ships and to provide standards for an acceptable environment for seafarers. Compliance with the Code requires measurement of noise levels in work, navigation, accommodation, and service spaces under simulated port conditions and at normal service speed at no less than 80 percent of the maximum continuous rating (MCR). Deviation from this normal service condition may be permitted for ships with special propulsion and power configurations, such as diesel-electric systems.  Obviously, this new regulation will only affect the largest of yachts.  However, it is important to take note of it.  Most regulations are initially established for one size of vessel and later expanded to others.

Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau ( Comments are welcome below.

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