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June 24, 2010

ABS enhances casualty response service

ABS has enhanced and expanded its Rapid Response Damage Assessment Program (RRDA) that provides 24/7 technical support to enrolled vessels involved in a casualty.

Effective July 1, owners of all new ABS-classed tankers, bulk carriers, large gas carriers, containerships and tank barges will be offered free enrollment of these vessels in the program and fee-free service for the first year. The normal charge for developing the electronic model of the vessel that is used for conducting the damage stability calculations will be waived.

In addition, those vessels that elect to enter the program will be offered the new ABS voluntary class notation RRDA, which will provide evidence to port state authorities and other interested parties that the vessel meets the requirement to have access to a shore-based damage stability capability.

"Governments and society expect shipowners to operate with zero incidents," said ABS Chairman and CEO Robert D. Somerville. "When there is a casualty, the owner is expected to deal with it as expeditiously as possible with minimum impact on the environment. We have been helping many of our clients to do that for the last several years but, in talking with them, we realize that we can do more as the pressures that are placed on an owner in the aftermath of a casualty have grown significantly."

That feedback from shipowners has spurred ABS to expand the services provided under the RRDA Program to include detailed hull girder ultimate strength and local buckling and ultimate strength analyses of the vessel in the damaged condition. By applying the proprietary ABS SEAS global wave data, the society can then evaluate the hull girder and local strength for any planned repositioning of the vessel to a repair facility.

"As the class society with access to the technical information related to the vessel and a significant number of advanced structural analysis tools, we are in the position to do more than just provide the immediate stability calculations that have characterized rapid response programs to date," said Mr. Somerville. "We view this service as part of the wider, more holistic approach we are taking toward vessel safety, making better use of the large electronic warehouse of data on each of the ABS-classed vessels that we hold."

A key element of the expanded RRDA service is the integrated nature of the ABS computer system. The RRDA ship model is an extension of the Hull Maintenance model that ABS has been supplying free to owners of new ABS-classed vessels delivered since January 1, 2009 as part of the very successful ABS Newbuild Program.

"We are able to integrate the modeling we do as part of either the Common Structural Rules evaluation of a tanker or bulk carrier or a SafeHull evaluation of the other vessel types, the modeling for the Hull Maintenance Program and the analytical programs that we use to then perform a complex strength evaluation of a damaged vessel's structure in a very, very, short period of time," Mr. Somerville explained. "The owner then has far more complete information available upon which to base his decisions when coping with a casualty."

The modeling of the vessels is being undertaken through ABS Nautical Systems, a division of ABS that provides software solutions to shipowners' fleet management and operational activities.

"Providing a more sophisticated approach to vessel casualty response is a natural outgrowth of our activities," said Tom Blenk, Nautical Systems Vice President, Global Operations. "The range of services that we offer is being steadily expanded to address a much broader range of operational issues that confront the modern shipowner and then integrating these with the vessel's classification in a way that provides ABS with a unique differentiator."

As with most RRDA Programs, the ABS offering is available to non-ABS classed ships, several hundred of which are currently in the program. These will now have access to the broader analysis that is being made available. Non-ABS classed newbuildings will also be accepted into the program but will be subject to fees for creating the initial electronic model and for the first and subsequent year services.

A small number of offshore exploration and production facilities are currently enrolled in the ABS RRDA Program. They will continue to receive the basic service. However, ABS is currently developing a companion program that will be able to more quickly carry out advanced analysis of these more complex structures.

"Offshore casualties are, thankfully, rare but they do occur," said Mr. Somerville. "The stability and structural analysis of these units - including jack-ups, semisubmersibles, drillships and spars - is much different to the analysis of commercial ships. Once again, ABS has the data and the tools to be able to undertake the modeling and analysis. Our challenge is to be able to conduct these analyses within the short period of time needed for the operators to make rapid decisions based on a sound assessment of the structural condition and stability of the unit. We look forward to releasing this further enhancement of the RRDA Program in the near future."

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