New IMO international code of safety for ships using gases (IGF Code)


By Roberto Cazzulo, RINA

The IGF Code – adopted in June 2015 - will enter into force on 1 January 2017, introducing new mandatory technical and operational requirements for ships using gases or other low-flashpoint fuels

The international community in recent years has discussed extensively the growing awareness of environmental issues aimed at reducing the impact of the maritime sector on climate change and CO2 emissions.

This discussion has opened new scenarios on the use of alternative fuels in the maritime sector, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) which is able to cut sulphur and particulate emissions.

But the use of alternative fuels introduces new challenges for regulators and operators alike, for instance in terms of fuel supply infrastructure, ship safety and crew training. In fact, due to the different chemical/physical characteristics of these fuels, new risk scenarios need to be considered.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has therefore developed and finally adopted in June 2015 an international code of safety for ships using gases or other low-flashpoint fuels (the IGF Code), which is mandatory under the SOLAS Convention for ships:

  1. using low-flashpoint fuels for which the building contract is placed on or after 1 January 2017 or, in the absence of a building contract, the keels of which are laid or which are at a similar stage of construction on or after 1 July 2017, or the delivery of which is on or after 1 January 2021;
  2. which convert to using low-flashpoint fuels on or after 1 January 2017, irrespective of the date of construction; and
  3. which undertake to use low-flashpoint fuels different from those which it was originally approved to use before 1 January 2017, irrespective of the date of construction.

The code is not applicable to gas carriers using their cargoes or other low-flashpoint gases as fuel, provided the design and arrangements of fuel storage and distribution systems comply with the requirements of the IGC Code.

The IGF Code introduces new requirements for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems to minimize the risk to the ship, its crew and the environment, with regard to the nature of the fuels involved. In particular, the code includes specific criteria for:

  • risk assessment (Part A);
  • ship design and arrangement (e.g. fuel containment system, piping, bunkering, fire safety) (Part A-1);
  • manufacture, workmanship and testing (Part B-1);
  • operational aspects (Part C-1);
  • training (Part D).

Having closely followed these developments at IMO, RINA is currently involved in the approval of new projects and is ready to provide any further clarification and support to those interested in applying the IGF Code, either to new ships or to conversions using LNG or other low-flashpoint fuels.