Class changes ahead Goal-based standards will see an expanding role

01 Dec 2003

"Two years, five years, ten years ? the time scale is unpredictable but it is certain that there will be changes in the manner in which class establishes and maintains standards in the future," says ABS president and CEO Robert Somerville
"Over the next five years, I believe that the role of class will expand further," says Alan Gavin Lloyd?s Register?s marine director. He explains that both the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the European Union (EU) are recognising the importance of classification to maritime legislation, and class will be working more closely with both bodies on high-level, ?goal-based? new construction standards. The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) also has a technical panel, which liases with the EU, involving class in both the rule-making and rule-application process relevant to EU ships and territorial waters.
Another growth area for class is that of maritime security, which is currently in its infancy. Gavin says that the role of class within this area has already been a large one and it will continue to grow, both leading up to the July 1, 2004 implementation deadline for International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code compliance and beyond, as security systems spread to other links in the intermodal chain, such as road and rail.
Flag administrations have come to rely upon the expertise of class in technical matters as well as in the auditing of management systems, and this reliance will expand into other areas. Gavin says that a number of governments have discussed with Lloyd?s Register and other classification societies the possibility of class involvement in the certification of labour-related activities, such as health and safety and the protection of personnel.
"This is part of the changing focus of flag administrations and their increasing tendency to utilise the worldwide distribution and technical expertise of class, already well established through the system of recognised organisations (ROs) and now through recognised security organisations (RSOs)," explains Gavin. He told The Motor ship that; "In this sense, we may see class take on a stronger role within the industry as a regulator for flags."
This is something that Terje Staalstr?m, senior vice president of DNV Maritime agrees with saying that "we expect the most important changes to be the expanding role of class as an RO (Recognized Organisation) that is, representing the Flag States." He cites recent examples such as the delegation of verifying compliance with the ISPS-Code to illustrate this. "We also expect that the forthcoming ILO ?super convention? will lead to new areas of involvement for the major ROs," says Staalstr?m. He explains that this trend will require increased and more diversified competence within the class societies, but also increased responsibility.
"Class is responding to the demand for common rules but the process is neither simple nor quick and it has yet to be determined if the goal is a comprehensive single set of class rules for all vessel types, or common criteria for key elements such as strength and corrosion margins for tankers, bulk carriers and containerships above a certain size that would permit each society to continue to frame its own rules around those requirements, and also its own rules for smaller vessels, for the offshore industry and for other sectors," warns Somerville.
ABS believes it is time for such a reassessment by the industry as a whole to determine what, if any adjustments may be needed or could contribute to a further improvement in the overall standards of maritime safety. "Such a reassessment should also include government representatives, as the self-regulating mechanism of class must always function in partnership with the formal regulatory agenda established by the IMO, says Somerville.
He explains, "such a re-evaluation must recognize and adhere to an essential yet delicate balance. On the one hand, for class to be effective, it must be independent. It cannot be seen or perceived to favour any one sector, for example the shipowner or shipbuilder over another. Yet to be accepted by everyone within the industry, particularly if the function, the expertise, and the limitations of class are to be fully understood by governments and regulatory bodies, all sectors must have a voice in framing any changes in the powers, responsibilities or accountabilities of the class societies."
Staalstr?m sees the discussions now taking place within IMO on the role of class and the need for developing common "goal-based standards" as encouraging. Ugo Salerno, CEO for RINA and chairman of IACS also welcomes the IMO decision and the has started to co-operate with The Bahamas and Greek administrations in order to contribute to the definition of clear, practical and achievable goals for both the structural aspects and survey regime for shipbuilding. "This co-operation will provide the IMO with a good start in the process of setting a wide range of goal-based standards that could become the basis for all future rule developments," says Salerno.
IACS members are aware that what has been done so far within IACS in terms of Unified Requirements and Unified Interpretations is not enough. The IMO, regulatory bodies and the industry are requesting much more consistency, in particular for newbuildings. These requests are seen more as an opportunity to strengthen the role of class and IACS, explains Salerno.
"We need a clear and firm confirmation on what are the responsibilities of IMO and what are the responsibilities of class in the process of defining the technical standards for safety and environmental protection," says Staalstr?m.
He explains that the role of class societies as technological centres of competence will continue to increase in importance. "There are today few other organizations that have the same breadth and depth of knowledge in marine technology, says Staalstr?m, something that Somerville agrees with. The last IACS Council decided to move from IACS Unified Requirements to fully common classification rules, starting with hull structures and two ship types, double hull tankers and double side skin bulk carriers. "It will not be an easy job and probably we will encounter technical problems in the course of developments but the political decision has been taken with the full support of all ten members and it will not be changed, says Salerno.
To define common classification rules for hull scantlings means to cover all essential matters that are checked by classification societies in the course of plan approval and surveillance during construction in view of issuing the class certificate


Class ? the enforcer?
"Class is not in and of itself an enforcer," says Gavin. He explains that the role of ?policeman? is reserved for flag administrations, in the form of both port state and flag state controls, which have a duty to enforce national and international regulations.
"Class only becomes an enforcer if it works as an RO on behalf of a flag state," says Gavin, explaining that the power to enforce regulation does not reside with class as such, but only by proxy, by virtue of the authority of the flag which has delegated to class.
Recent events have highlighted several issues, such as demands by some governments that class societies accept unlimited liability for their actions as recognized organisations, and the new extension of criminal penalties to class surveyors in certain jurisdictions. Somerville says, "class has never sought blanket absolution for its actions ? class societies should be ? and are held accountable."
However, he says; "we firmly believe that any potential liabilities should appropriately reflect the limited role and responsibilities of class," explaining that it is unreasonable that the continued existence of an entire class society should be jeopardized under the unlimited liability provision, for a judgment call made by a single surveyor, for which the fee was a few hundred dollars?
If class fails to proactively work with all concerned to meet demands, the industry faces the risk of greater direct government regulation in place of the self-regulating mechanism of class.


Thriving class
"We believe members of the maritime community recognize that now more than ever, class is the key industry repository of technical knowledge and experience," says Teruo Akahori, managing director of Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, or ClassNK.
There are 10 class societies that are members of IACS and, maybe another 30 ? 40 that claim to be classification societies, most of which are in reality inspection agencies. "Since they exist, there must be a market for their services," says Staalstr?m. IMO and EU have both defined what it takes to be a recognised classification society, both with qualitative and quantitative criteria. Not many more than the IACS members meet those criteria.
"The answer to whether all IACS members will survive in the future I believe is an affirmative yes," says Staalstr?m. He explains that there are differences in competence and size ? some are more international than others ? some are legally societies foundations or societies, like DNV, others are closely connected to their national administration, but all 10 have strong enough backing from their traditional home-market to continue to thrive as long as their home-market does well. He told The Motor Ship; "I cannot see how a class society can grow and succeed unless they have support at home, like the Scandinavian maritime cluster in the case of DNV or the German maritime cluster in the case of GL."
Gavin explains that there are currently 56 ROs that have been notified to IMO, and only 10 of these are IACS members; among them, the IACS societies class approximately 90% of the world?s tonnage. "Clearly, those societies which are not members of IACS may not be expected to survive the ever increasing scrutiny being directed at those who act on behalf of flag administrations," he concludes.
Somerville believes that there is also no dispute that the worldwide network of classification surveyors is the most effective and efficient method of conducting not just class surveys but also the overwhelming majority of statutory surveys. However, he warns that "if these two factors remain constant then the overall latitude for change in the role of class is relatively limited."




The next big aim
The next big aim for class must be to "retain the trust and confidence which enables us to be the independent regulator and certifier for the maritime industry, like class has been for the last 200 years, says Staalstr?m. "Class is bound to develop and evolve further over the next decade, just as it has over the last 10 years ?but these changes are bound to be gradual and in consultation with the major stakeholders," says Akahori.
Staalstr?m highlights the following is the way to accomplish this:
Ensure that we ? all of us ? do our job properly, with quality in mind, and as expected by the society.
Work with the other regulators in IMO and EU to confirm our role as the standard setter and certifier for technical standards for safety and pollution prevention.
Show the industry that we are united in our common effort to ensure safety at sea and refuse sub-standard operators in our classed fleets.
Security remains an issue and the next big challenge for class is to effectively oversee the implementation and certification of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.
Lloyd?s Register has put several maritime security initiatives into place over the past year, including publishing its ISPS Practical Pack in April and launching a worldwide series of training courses for ship security officers (SSOs) and company security officers (CSOs) in May, to help give personnel from shipping companies a clear idea of how to begin implementation of the ISPS Code.
The class society has trained over 1,500 CSOs and SSOs on its courses, which have approval from the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Isle of Man Marine Administration, among other flag administrations.
Recently, Lloyd?s Register also launched a series of port security seminars and has received accreditation from TRANSEC, the agency within UK Department for Transport responsible for port security, for its series of port facility security officer (PFSO) training courses. Captain Andy Mitchell, head of marine management systems told The Motor Ship that the class society has also received authorisation from 20 flag states to act on their behalf as an RSO.

Stronger ships with redundant machinery
Bernard Anne, senior vice president of the Marine Division for Bureau Veritas (BV) warns that if tanker safety is to improve, double hulls are not enough, because although simple to understand for politicians and publics, they do not address the real causes of major oil spills.
A BV investigation of oil spills over the last ten years shows that the total number of spills and the total oil spilt are decreasing. However, the number of large incidents remains constant. "The causes of those incidents have very little to do with double or single hulls, says Anne. "The primary causes are machinery failure, navigational error, fire and explosion, and hull damage."
He says that tanker owners, builders and designers who want safer tankers should be focussing on better availability and reliability of machinery, better manoeuvrability and navigation systems, explosion prevention and better overall hull strength.
"The first priority is moving towards full redundancy for machinery," explains Anne. That means twin engines in separate engine rooms, twin screws, supported by twin rudders, with twin steering gears, and all the machinery arranged so that a failure of one engine or one steering gear will still allow the vessel to make headway and manoeuvre.
Explosion prevention and hull strength are linked. "The ship must be designed to have a higher ultimate deck strength than current IACS requirements, and there must be closer attention to fatigue details, both at the design and build stage, and crucially, during the ship?s life," says Anne.
Improved efficiency
"We need to improve the efficiency of IACS," says Salerno. As an organisation, today IACS is formed by:
10 Members
10 people in the Permanent Secretariat and a Permanent Secretary
3 Committees: Council, Quality Committee and General Policy Group
7 permanent Working Parties (such as hull, machinery, electrical system, materials, surveys)
More that 20 Ad-hoc Groups, Project Teams and Correspondence Groups
The tasks of all these groups are published on the IACS web site and are open to comments from interested parties. At present there are about 120 on-going tasks with more than 300 people from IACS Members involved.

In addition, IACS Members dedicate continuous R&D towards the development of new rules, software tools and information technology. The amount of money collectively invested in R&D is of the order of $75M annually.
"Overall, such efforts are impressive but they certainly need to be re-organised for the sake of efficiency, in particular aiming at developing IACS common rules," explains Salerno. To that effect, IACS has established a Steering Committee that will report the results of its assessment, including constructive proposals, at the next Council meeting in December.

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