Enclosed space - ship safety rule (portable atmosphere testing equipment) entered into force 1 July 2016


A new regulation aimed at protecting seafarers who need to enter enclosed spaces, by requiring ships to carry portable atmosphere testing equipment on board, entered into force on 1 July 2016.

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

Enclosed spaces are spaces that have limited openings for entry and exit, inadequate ventilation and are not designed for continuous worker occupancy. The atmosphere in any enclosed space may be oxygen-deficient or oxygen-enriched and/or contain flammable and/or toxic gases or vapours, thus presenting a risk to life.

confined space entry
Enclosed spaces are spaces that have limited openings for entry and exit, inadequate ventilation and are not designed for continuous worker occupancy. The atmosphere in any enclosed space may be oxygen-deficient or oxygen-enriched and/or contain flammable and/or toxic gases or vapours, thus presenting a risk to life.

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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  1. The sadness of this legislation is in the inexcusable time it took the IMO to put it in place. For many years we all knew it was essential but the iniquitous financial association of ship owners and the flag state representatives ensured the delay during which time many seafarers died.

    While now those at sea can check the air in a space they still have no equipment or training for entry or rescue, not even the essential resuscitators, again, all being held back by the delegates at the behest of their registry interests.

    The IMO is now but a shadow of the organization it once was, with the safety of those at sea, which was and supposedly is still the founding mission, being suppressed by environmental issues and the financial wellbeing of the flag states representatives. Most of the SOLAS legislation such as lifeboat capacity, lifejackets, firefighting equipment, cruise ship abandonment criteria is completely out of date, some going back 50 years and yet nothing is being done.

    The question must be how long can the IMO and the flag state delegates be allowed to continue in this archaic fashion?

    • I agree with your comments entirely. There have been too many deaths caused by lack of equipment on non-tankers and on tankers due to lack of or poor training.
      In 1998 I brought to the attention of IMO that there was not SOLAS requirement for load test gangways and accommodation ladders. Some flag states had there own requirements such as the UK but in this case they were part of the dock regulations. I brought this up because I was piloting at the time and came across some units in dangerous condition. It took 10 years to get it into the IMO requirements.
      Yes I think the mariners in IMO are being suppressed by other interest groups.
      Safety is paramount. When you see these new monster cruise liners you hope they never have another Concordia.

  2. This has been a long time coming. Tankers have had gas detection equipment for many years but there are still incidents of people dying due to entering spaces containing dangerous gases. The biggest danger is low oxygen, when entering spaces such as cofferdams, chain lockers etc. Personnel are not aware of the effect of low O2, it is of course odourless so there is no warning, just rapid collapse. I have had a significant incident of rescuing personnel from and enclosed space. The incident involved senior personnel. A senior superintendent, was told not to enter a cofferdam he disregarded the warning. He did not request a test of the atmosphere to allow safe entry, or standby safety equipment, He entered a forward cofferdam reached the first floor, to descend to the next level when he collapsed. Luckily the Chief Engineer, who was accompanying him, had not entered the tank and raised the alarm. The C/O rushed forward collecting a SCABA set enroute arrived at the tank donned the SCABA and entered the tank. Reaching the Super, who was slumped part way in the entry manhole to the lower level and gasping heavily. The C/O started to take off his mask to give the Super some air and immediately collapsed. I was 2/O and had been off watch, I responded and arrived at the tank after the C/O had entered. I got a SCABA from the forecastle and had lifelines rigged, one for myself and one to extract the casualties. I entered the tank put the life line on the C/O and he was hauled out with me pushing from below. I returned and we extracted the Super, both were given resuscitation and recovered. This was in 1965 and things have moved on but incidents like this still happen.
    Lessons learned: NEVER enter an enclosed space without testing the atmosphere.
    NEVER enter a space without back up and safety equipment standing by.
    ALWAYS use a personal detector, on a pendant, allowing it to be put into the next space before entry.
    If wearing SCABA in a rescue action,NEVER remove your mask to give someone else air.
    When I was seconded to personnel for a period, I analysed Enclosed space / Tank entry incidences and found that lack of O2 incidents exceed gas incidents by a small percentage.

  3. Rules or no rules, the main link to safety is the human link. He must have real strong rule to ensure safety is on board and not on the records.
    During my continuing 40 + years with the maritime industry, I have noticed more accidents due to pure neglect, while all records showing every xxxxx check is done properly.