Rules of the Road: New rules for 2021

Jan 18, 2021 by Jake DesVergers

As we say goodbye to 2020 with a hard shove out the door, we welcome in the New Year and look ahead to what awaits us in the world of maritime regulations. Despite a global pandemic, the various regulatory bodies worked hard to bring us their best. We will see several new rules enter into force this year. Here is a summary of those changes that will affect new and existing yachts.

Ballast Water: Management Systems

Oct. 28, 2020: Ballast water management systems are to be approved in accordance with the new Code for Approval of Ballast Water Management Systems (BWMS Code), which incorporates and is technically consistent with the 2016 G8 Guidelines. Upon entry into force of the BWMS Code, the 2016 G8 Guidelines will be revoked. Ballast water management systems installed before Oct. 28, 2020, may be approved taking into account the earlier G8 Guidelines developed by the IMO.

USA: COVID-19 Testing for Air Travel

Dec. 28, 2020: To reduce the introduction and spread of new variants of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an order effective Jan. 26, that requires all air passengers arriving to the U.S. from a foreign country be tested for the COVID-19 infection no later than three days before their flight departs. Proof of the negative result or documentation showing recovery from the virus must be provided to the air carrier before boarding the flight. This includes ship and yacht crews.

Readers are reminded that seafarers have been identified as essential workers by many countries. This prioritizes their travel arrangements by the air carriers. Those countries include: Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece,  Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Montenegro, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Yemen.

European Union: Ship Recycling Regulation

Dec. 31, 2020: Similar to the Hong Kong international convention, the European Union’s Ship Recycling Regulation (EUSRR) entered into force during December 2018 with a stated deadline of Dec. 31, 2020. All ships (and yachts) of 500GT and above, regardless of the flag they fly, will be required to carry an Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM). Accompanying the IHM, there must be a Statement of Compliance from the vessel’s flag state.

The IHM must be on board when the vessel is calling a port or anchorage of a country that is a member of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA). Port state control officers will verify the Statement of Compliance and the quality of the IHM. In cases of non-compliance, ships and yachts may be warned, detained, dismissed or excluded from ports or offshore terminals under the jurisdiction of a member state.

SOLAS: ISM Code, Cybersecurity Regulations

Jan. 1, 2021: The ISM Code, supported by IMO Resolution MSC.428(98), requires yacht owners and managers to assess cyber risk and implement relevant measures across all functions of their safety management system. This must be accomplished by the first Document of Compliance audit after Jan. 1, 2021.

In combination with the resolution, the IMO also released Guidelines on Maritime Cyber Risk Management (MSC-FAL.1/Circ.3) in July 2017. The guidelines provide high-level recommendations on maritime cyber risk management to safeguard shipping from current and emerging cyber threats and vulnerabilities. It also includes functional elements that support effective cyber risk management. The recommendations can be incorporated into existing risk management processes and are complementary to the safety and security management practices already established by the IMO. 

However, as both documents leave most interpretations to the company responsible for the safety management system, there remain many uncertainties on how to handle the requirements.

Fire Safety Systems Code: Automatic Sprinklers and Helicopter Facilities

Jan. 1, 2021: A new provision is added to Chapter 8 requiring water quality for automatic sprinkler systems to be specified by the system manufacturer. This is to prevent internal corrosion of sprinklers and clogging or blockage arising from products of corrosion or scale-forming minerals. Also, a new Chapter 17 is added to the FSS Code containing specifications for foam firefighting appliances for the protection of helicopter facilities.

MARPOL – Annex IV, Sewage

June 1, 2021: For passenger yachts operating in the Baltic Sea, Annex IV of the MARPOL Convention has been amended. It establishes a Special Area (the Baltic Sea) regulating the discharge of sewage from passenger ships. Discharge is prohibited in this area except for ships that have an operative approved sewage treatment plant (STP). The STP must be type-approved to the new standard, Res. MEPC.227(64), para. 4.2.

Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for the International Yacht Bureau (IYB), a recognized organization that provides flag-state inspection services to private and commercial yachts on behalf of several flag-state administrations. A deck officer graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, he previously sailed as Master on merchant ships, acted as Designated Person for a shipping company, and served as regional manager for an international classification society. Contact him at 954-596-2728 or


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