Maritime nations have agreed to tighten up international regulations governing the safety of roll-on roll-off passenger ferries.
A number of amendments were adopted last week by the International Maritime Organization's Maritime Safety Committee.Pressure to improve safety followed the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster last year in which 193 people died when the British-owned ferry capsized just outside the Belgian Port of Zeebrugge.
One amendment is designed to provide more information to masters of roll-on roll-off ships concerning their draught trim and stability after loading and before departure. Electronic loading and stability computers will be recommended.
A new regulation will also require cargo loading doors to be closed and locked before the vessel's departure. The Herald of Free Enterprise sailed with the bow doors still open.
Also, to ensure that the stability of roll-on roll-off ships is not adversely affected by changes such as superstructure additions, a new regulation will require a lightweight survey to be carried out on all passenger ships at least every five years.
The committee agreed that further measures to improve stability of a damaged ship were also necessary. The amendment represents a major advance in residual stability standards, the IMO said, taking into account such factors as the effect of passengers crowding to one side of the ship, wind pressure and the weight of survival craft being launched.
The amendments adopted by the United Nations body are expected to take effect in April 1990.