April 18, 2005

Liberia offers harmonized ISPS and ISM audits

The Liberian Registry believes that both the International Ship & Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code security initiatives and the International Safety Management (ISM) Code safety and pollution prevention procedures should be incorporated into the overall management system.

This principle, coupled with a desire to ease the burden on ships' masters and crew has led Liberia to initiate this process by offering a program of Harmonized Audits.

Last year, the Liberian Registry proved highly successful in ISPS approval by using its own worldwide network of fully trained auditors to ensure that owners and operators were fully compliant by the due date.

Now it has decided to extend the philosophy to ISM and other safety and quality-related fields.

The Liberian Registry says shipowners, operators and managers have welcomed ts decision to carry out ISM Code audits and certifications and to harmonize ISM and ISPS Code certification procedures.

Scott Bergeron, Chief Operating Officer of the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR), the U.S.-based managers of the registry, says the response has been "extraordinary."

"Harmonising ISM and ISPS verification and audit procedures makes practical and economic sense," says Bergeron. "The two codes have a great deal in common. Each covers designated ship and shore staff, drills and training, documented procedures, checklists, exercises, record-keeping, internal and external audits, certification, and Port State Control inspections."

"There is now a proliferation of inspections covering international shipping-- national and international regulations, charterers' requirements, Port State Control, classifications surveys, underwriters' and P&I inspections, and others," notes Bergeron. "All of these impact on the safe operation of the vessel, crew rest hours, and overall co-ordination of the ship's business."

Harmonizing inspections and audits for certification purposes reduces the burden on ship and shore staff, and reduces the expense for shipowners and managers. In addition to the traditional statutory surveys, the typical flag state oversight of ISM, ISPS and an annual safety inspection takes somewhere between 18 and 24 hours, spread over three ship visits. The demands of co-ordination and correspondence for each such attendance is an additional burden for the shore staffÊ

"With a harmonized audit," says Bergeron, "we can expect to complete all those tasks during a single visit, lasting up to about ten to twelve hours."

Pini Shwartz, Liberia's head of the Harmonized Audit Program says, "We will maintain our practical approach in order to facilitate the verification process. Our specially trained staff will co-ordinate audits and issue certificates. Liberia currently has sixty ISPS and ISM Code trained and qualified lead auditors and, by the end of June 2005, one hundred Liberian auditors will be trained and qualified."

As an extension of that thinking, the Liberian Registry has also partnered with the British Standards Institution (BSI) to also offer ISO 9001:2000, ISO 14001 and other management certification and audit services.

Scott Bergeron says, "We are not trying to usurp the role of classification societies or other recognized inspection bodies. We simply believe that safety audit and certification is a responsibility which can be achieved extremely efficiently and effectively by a quality-driven ship register."

"Liberia offers shipowners practical choices," says Bergeron. "It will continue to accept certification issued by recognized classification societies, who will continue to issue statutory certificates covering the likes of safety equipment, safety construction, load line, and pollution prevention."

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