UK MCA updates ro-ro stowage guidance

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The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has updated its MGN 621 Code of Practice ‘Roll-on/Roll-off Ships – Stowage and Securing of Vehicles’, to reflect recommendations by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) concerning the potential hazards when carrying specialised vehicles.

As part of the revision and publishing of the 4th edition, MCA have re-titled the Code of Practice as ‘guidelines’.

The purpose of the guidelines, according to the MCA, is to provide detail and information on safe procedures to be followed during roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) operations to reduce the risks to persons and ships, as aligned with standards developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Published in November 2019, the revised guidelines take MAIB recommendations from an incident in which a ro-ro vessel developed a starboard list causing cargo shift and the grounding of the vessel.

The key points from the MAIB recommendation to the MCA are:

  • Ships should ensure that cargo is stowed and secured in accordance with the approved Cargo Securing Manual (CSM) before the ship leaves a berth.
  • During the voyage, lashings should be inspected at intervals appropriate to the length of voyage and weather conditions expected to ensure that vehicles remain safely secured.
  • Lashings should not be released for unloading before the ship is secured at the berth, without the master’s express permission.
  • Cargo should be so distributed that the ship has a metacentric height in excess of the required minimum and, whenever practicable, within an acceptable upper limit to minimise the forces acting on the cargo, keeping in mind that large metacentric height could cause the ship to roll violently in adverse sea conditions.
  • Sudden change of course and/or speed may create adverse forces acting on the ship and the cargo. This is especially relevant for vessels fitted with high lift rudders, where moderate to high rudder angles may result in high forces being generated.
  • The crew should be familiar with the requirements contained within the approved CSM.
  • Ships’ officers and managers should carry out checks on lashings during audits and inspections to ensure that bad practices are not taking place, especially where operations are rapid and very repetitive.
  • The condition of lashing systems should be monitored closely.
  • There should be an effective maintenance programme for all the portable and fixed securing devices. Web lashings are to be marked and limited to a maximum working life.

Operators now have access to up-to-date IMO resolutions in the revised guidelines to ensure that vehicles are stowed and secured in accordance with international standards. As such, the revision updates reference relevant legislation and guidance.

The original publication “Code of Practice for Roll-on/Roll-off Ships – Stowage and Securing of Vehicles” was first published in 1991 with revised editions in 1996, 2003, and 2019.