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ARM MERCHANT SHIPS?
Should merchant ships transiting high risk areas carry small arms for defense against pirates?

Selected crew should be trained and have guns available
Professional armed security teams should be hired
No guns on merchant ships, ever

June 5, 2009

ABS fleet at record high

The ABS-classed fleet has passed the 150 million gross tons threshold for the first time in the classification society's 147 year history. Latest statistics show the ABS fleet as standing at 10,615 vessels, aggregating 150.67 million gt. This is an increase of more than 6.5 million gt in just the first five months of 2009.

The milestone also cements ABS position as the third largest class society in terms of aggregate gross tons-- and the society believes it continues to be the largest in terms of the number of vessels and offshore units in its class.

Industry statistics also show ABS to hold the largest orderbook of new construction contracts: 3,349 vessels aggregating 64.77 million gt.

"With virtually no orders for new ships being placed, we expect that the orderbook will slowly contract as more ships are delivered," said ABS Chairman and CEO Robert D. Somerville. "But the size of our orderbook promises to keep us very busy for some considerable time to come, particularly as the number of cancelled and deferred orders has remained at a manageable percentage of our total contracts."

"The continued increase in our fleet size means that we can expect to see an associated increase in the demand for our periodic in-service surveys over the next two years and we will be prepared to move survey staff as needed from the newbuilding to the repair yards as we adjust to the changing dynamic in our activities," he added.

The last decade has seen a steady growth in the size of the ABS fleet, rising year-on-year from 100 million gt in 1999 to its current record level.

"Our success in winning the class contracts for new ships particularly tankers, bulk carriers, gas carriers and offshore drilling and production units has also changed the age profile of our fleet from one of the older to one of the youngest classed fleets," Mr. Somerville noted.

"Almost 55 percent of our fleet, in tonnage terms, is now less than 10 years old, while less than 6 percent of the fleet is in the 21-25 year age bracket," he continued. "With the pending phase out of single hull tankers in 2010, and the likelihood of increased scrapping of older bulk carriers in the current down market, we can expect this trend toward a younger age profile to accelerate in the short term."

The latest fleet statistics underscore the ABS presence in the three key markets of Korea, China and Greece. The society continues to hold the leading market share for newbuildings on order in both Korea and China, the world's top two shipbuilding nations. And, with 30 percent of all Greek controlled tonnage on order to ABS, the society has established itself as the preferred society for Greek owners.

"We have worked very hard over the last several years to provide the best available service in each of these three core markets," said Mr. Somerville. "The classification sector is characterized by intense competition in terms of the services provided. Our ability to maintain our position as the leading class society for new construction, not only in these three markets but with respect to the entire worldwide orderbook, is a testament to the quality and responsiveness of the services we strive to offer to every client, every day."

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