New SOLAS requirement mandates atmosphere testing aboard ship

SOLAS testing

From July 1, A new SOLAS regulation entered into force aimed at protecting seafarers who need to enter enclosed spaces. The new regulation XI-1/7 requires ships to carry portable atmosphere testing equipment on board.

Seafarers may have to enter enclosed spaces on ships to manage or obtain equipment, assist a colleague or to inspect vital engine parts.

The atmosphere in any enclosed space on a ship may be oxygen-deficient or oxygen-enriched and/or contain flammable and/or toxic gases or vapours, and present a risk to life.

Despite the weath of information that has been availabe for years, many deaths have been caused by seafarers being unaware of, or ignoring the correct procedures prior to entering an enclosed space.

The new regulation XI-1/7 Atmosphere testing instrument for enclosed spaces in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), requires ships to carry an appropriate portable atmosphere testing instrument or instruments, capable, as a minimum, of measuring concentrations of oxygen, flammable gases or vapours, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide, prior to entry into enclosed spaces.

Enclosed spaces covered by the regulation include, but are not limited to, cargo spaces, double bottoms, fuel tanks, ballast tanks, cargo pump-rooms, cofferdams, chain lockers, void spaces, duct keels, inter-barrier spaces, boilers, engine crankcases, engine scavenge air receivers, sewage tanks, and adjacent connected spaces. The list is not exhaustive and enclosed spaces should be identified and listed on a ship-by-ship basis.

Similar requirements for offshore drilling units enter into force, under amendments to the Code for the Construction and Equipment of Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (1979, 1989 and 2009 MODU Codes).

Associated Guidelines to facilitate the selection of portable atmosphere testing instruments for enclosed spaces as required by SOLAS regulation XI-1/7 (MSC.1/Circ.1477) have been agreed, to facilitate the selection of a portable atmosphere testing instrument for enclosed spaces.

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