Friday, February 4, 2000

ABS seeks tougher classification standards for aging vessels
Responding to preliminary findings into the loss of the tanker Erika off the coast of France, ABS is proposing a sweeping series of measures intended to tighten classification society scrutiny of aging vessels, particularly tankers. ABS will propose the new, tougher measures at a special meeting of IACS--the International Association of Classification Societies--being held next week.

If other IACS members do not agree, it seems likely that ABS will act unilaterally.Iarossi

Unveiling the proposals ABS Chairman and CEO Frank J. Iarossi said the Erika incident was no mystery.

"It is quite clear," said Iarossi, "that the Erika sank as a result of structural failure, with disastrous results. Although ABS was not directly involved in this casualty, the loss of the vessel and the devastation of the marine environment should be of great concern to every responsible member of the marine community. "


As the recognized, independent arbiter of marine safety standards, it is imperative that class acts quickly and decisively to address any shortcomings that are shown to exist in the manner in which it operates, Iarossi said.

"The entire marine industry has accepted the substandard for far too long," Iarossi insisted. "Substandard ships continue in service because there are substandard owners willing to operate them. They are supported by substandard flag states eager to register them, substandard charterers prepared to hire them and substandard class societies that will turn a blind eye to their shortcomings, while Port States have become overburdened in their attempts to act as the policemen of the maritime world. In addition, there are still insurers and financial institutions prepared to underwrite them."

"When a vessel such as the Erika is able to operate, it is a result of a cumulative failure of the entire system. The disastrous consequences of that casualty rest with all those who participated. If any one of those participants had raised an objection to the continued operation of the Erika, the vessel would have ended up in the scrap yard where it obviously belonged. "

ABS has acted ahead of the classification world consensus before. Erika was at one time classed with ABS, but its owner switched class when ABS implemented enhanced survey requirements in January 1993, six months ahead of the other societies.

ABS is proposing several steps that will significantly strengthen the manner in which older vessels are surveyed and that will set tougher standards against which they will be measured. "There is overwhelming evidence that older vessels are at greater risk," said Iarossi. "The cumulative effects of fatigue and corrosion accelerate with age. Traditional inspection schedules are appropriate for younger vessels but they may no longer provide adequate oversight once vessels approach their third special survey at 15 years of age and beyond.

"I believe that class needs to immediately impose the following requirements and urge the leaders of the other class societies and of the other participants in the safety chain to join us in countering the inevitable objections that will come from those who still cling to the hope of avoiding tougher surveillance."

  • Limit class transfer of vessels 15 years of age or older to a window of six months following the Special Survey completion date unless an equivalent survey is conducted at the time of transfer.
  • Require two (2) Surveyors to attend all tankers and bulk carriers for Special Survey #3 and for subsequent Intermediate and Special Surveys.
  • Strengthen the survey planning process by extending the requirements currently applied to Special Survey to all Intermediate Surveys following Special Survey #3.
  • Require surveyors to make a photographic record of the vessel during Special Survey #3 and at subsequent Special and Intermediate Surveys. Photos to be part of the survey report and vessel records.
  • Maintain Class Records, including thickness measurement reports and photographs in simple, consistent computer format for the entire life of the vessel. These records to transfer with changes in ownership or class. These records also to be available to Flag State and Port State authorities on demand.
  • Further strengthen requirements governing the taking of thickness measurements. Require the class surveyor to be on board the vessel and to both direct and supervise the actions of the approved thickness measurement firm. Thickness measurement reports in simple, consistent computer format, to be maintained on board the vessel and to be made available to Flag State and Port State authorities on demand.
  • Strengthen the Special Survey requirements for tankers by including the Condition Assessment Program requirements, (including a fatigue analysis), at Special Survey #3 and subsequent Special Surveys.
  • Internally examine all ballast tanks on an annual basis after Special Survey #3.
  • Strictly enforce requirements governing prompt and thorough repair and further tighten them to limit the circumstances under which any further sea passage can be undertaken. A prompt and thorough repair is defined as a permanent repair, completed at the time of the survey.
  • Develop guidelines for the application, maintenance and repair of coatings.


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