Monday, June 5, 2000
Patience is wearing a little thin in the
once-cosy world of classification societies.
Many in the larger, stronger societies
are getting a little weary of efforts by IACS, the International
Association of Classification Societies, to paper over the cracks
in the classification system following the Erika disaster.
Some of the tensions surfaced in a statement
just released by Helge Midttun, who took over as CEO of Det Norske
Veritas on May 25.
"DNV is disappointed that the International
Association of Classification Societies, IACS, was unable to
take firmer action at its Council Meeting last week in response
to the Erika accident," declared Midttun. "Ship classification
has a serious problem when the shipping market and public opinion
expect firm and immediate action, yet the IACS response is to
postpone the necessary decisions. We must look for ways to restore
confidence in class by improving the decision-making processes
of IACS and how the organization works," he said.
Midttun makes it clear that no recent single
accident has harmed the standing of the classification societies
more than the sinking of Erika. All classification societies
have to improve their performance in order to re-establish confidence
in class. Public and government reaction after the Erika
accident clearly shows that the expectations of class are high,
and certainly not met in this case.
"The only way confidence can be restored is by delivering
quality in our services," Helge Midttun says. "Under-performance
by one classification society reduces confidence in the whole
classification concept, and must lead to consequences for any
society which fails to deliver high quality."
DNV advocated a suspension of the Italian
class society RINA until the result of an IACS audit was clear.
This was not supported by a sufficient number of IACS members.
Helge Midttun says that he is not impressed by what has been
achieved through IACS in the six months since the loss of Erika
and the resulting oil pollution. So, how wimpy was
the IACS Council at its recent meeting?
An IACS statement says the meeting concentrated
on two recent serious ship accidents, involving the Erika
and Leader L
The council reviewed the situation and information on the Erika
case and, "noting that the special audits of Erika
and nine other ships recently transferred to RINA are not yet
completed, endorsed earlier decisions of the IACS Meeting of
February 16th to tighten the safety net for older ships, with
the aim to eliminate sub-standard vessels. Council realized it
was too early to take additional measures at this point."
On the thorny issue of self -policing,
"it was agreed that the IACS Internal Quality System is
basically sound. It will be further strengthened regarding common
self regulatory actions within IACS. IACS is introducing a Quality
Management Review at Council level, addressing the performance
of individual societies and the adequacy of the classification
scheme in general. The aim is to achieve uniformly high quality
standards amongst all IACS members with respect to all types
of ships and flags. " The council noted that RINA is presently
undertaking a critical review of its Internal Safety Net, parallel
to finalizing its own Erika investigation.
The IACS council was tougher on the Polish Register
of Shipping--an associate member of IACS. In the case of
the sinking of the Polish Register classed Leader L in
the Western Atlantic on March 23, 2000, IACS reviewed the results
of its special audit into the handling of the ship by the Polish
The review, says IACS, "showed evidence
of serious managerial shortcomings on the part of PRS similar
to those which led to its temporary suspension from IACS membership
in 1997. The Council noted that LEADER L had been operating under
PRS class, evidently in poor condition, for some time. The facts
in the audit report were not disputed by Polish Register of Shipping.
IACS Council, in its determination not to tolerate substandard
ships within the Association, consequently decided to terminate
PRS's associate status in IACS with immediate effect."
Midttun says booting out the Polish Register
was " a necessary move."
He also commended some other IACS decisions that are likely to
be on the agenda when IACS holds press conference at the Posidonia
event in Piraeus later this week.
"The establishment of an Accident
Investigation Team and a Crisis Management Team will make IACS
more able to respond relevantly and quickly when needed,"
said Midttun. "The two permanent teams show a willingness
to delegate more authority to the Chairman of IACS."
He hailed an IACS decision to ban the use
of non-exclusive surveyors on statutory surveys within a year
as "another step towards improved quality and more consistent
surveys by all the member societies."
The decision means that an IACS member
society either has to have its own global network of exclusive
surveyors, or enter into agreements with other societies to provide
"I expect," says Midttun, "that
we will see alliances between member societies which today operate
with extensive use of non-exclusive surveyors, and societies
that have an infrastructure with mainly exclusive surveyors.
Such alliances are necessary as a consolidation of a fragmented
It is widely believed that one of the first
such alliances to be announced will be between Det Norske Veritas
and Germanischer LLoyd.
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