IMO/Industry meeting considers proliferation of ship inspections

A meeting to consider possible solutions to problems caused by the proliferation of ship inspections was held on the 9 February 2000 at the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency concerned with shipping safety and the prevention of pollution from ships. The meeting was convened at the initiative of Mr. W.A. O’Neil, the Secretary-General of IMO.

The meeting was attended by representatives of shipping industry organizations, including

  • the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO)
  • the European Council of Chemical Manufacturers’ Federations (CEFIC/CDI)
  • the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS)
  • the International Chamber of Shipping/International Shipping Federation (ICS/ISF)
  • the International Federation of Shipmasters’ Associations (IFSMA)
  • the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO)
  • the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO)
  • the International Group of P and I Associations (P and I CLUBS)
  • the International Parcel Tankers Association (IPTA)
  • the International Ship Managers’ Association (ISMA)
  • the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI)
  • the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) and
  • the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators Ltd (SIGTTO).

Mr. O'Neil told the meeting that he was concerned about safety issues, operational difficulties and inconvenience caused to ship masters and ship officers, as well as to the smooth running of their ships in port, by the proliferation of inspections by representatives of various interests within the industry.

He said:

"The comments which were again highlighted during the Mare Forum ’99 Conference in Amsterdam and the wide publicity given to the issue subsequently convinced me that the time had come for concerted action to consider how the issue could be tackled and what remedial action could be taken."

The meeting had three main objectives:

  1. to provide a forum where parties, whose members are involved in the process of ship inspections and surveys, could present their current practices and offer their individual and collective views on how to deal with the problems caused by the excessive number of inspections to ships when in port or at offshore terminals;

  2. to agree that, for safety and environmental protection reasons, it is desirable to alleviate the workload imposed on shipmasters and officers, possibly through a reduction in the number and scope of onboard inspections while in port; and

  3. to agree on a collective course of action to remedy the situation.

The meeting had a comprehensive discussion about various aspects of surveys and inspections which ships undergo. These include statutory surveys and inspections, port State control inspections, class inspections, commercial inspections and condition surveys (initiated by insurers, charterers, cargo-related interests, financial institutions, etc.) and miscellaneous inspections (such as those related to labour matters, customs, immigration, quarantine, etc.)

Following the discussion, and after the meeting had emphasised the need for transparency in making available information on the condition of ships relating to overall safety and environmental protection, it agreed on a number of conclusions and recommendations concerning:

Flag State Administrations:

  • statutory surveys are unavoidable and cannot be reduced in number;

  • in view of the increasingly beneficial impact on safety and environmental protection currently enjoyed and expected to be achieved following full implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, measures should be taken to promote greater awareness, among parties concerned, of the role of the Code as an indicator of an accepted level of safe operation;

  • IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee will be invited to issue an MSC circular to this effect;

Port State control authorities:

  • port State control interventions can be simplified through improved procedures and co-operation among the various MoUs and PSC regional agreements;

  • efforts to establish a better exchange of information among MoUs and regional PSC agreements, along with the United States Coast Guard, together with an international database updated regularly, containing all PSC inspection reports made available to all PSC regimes should be accelerated, with a view to improving targeting of inspections and eliminating duplicate or unnecessary inspections;

  • action should be taken by IMO aiming at encouraging MoUs and regional PSC agreements to improve their policies and performance in line with the proposals of the industry, with a view to reducing the number of inspections. The Secretary-General undertook to communicate with MoU/PSCs as appropriate;

  • IMO’s efforts to assist in establishing an effective global network of control systems consisting of MoUs and regional PSC agreements should continue;

Industry partners:

  • a greater co-operation between charterers/shippers in the mutual recognition of inspection records should be established;

  • the Secretary-General undertook to communicate with industry representatives and IACS as appropriate.

Class and IACS

  • efforts should be made to strengthen trust in classification society inspections; and

  • following discussions, the meeting concluded that the services rendered by classification societies had been beneficial to shipping and that the industry needed a strong IACS.

The Erika

At the proposal of Mr. O’Neil, the meeting also discussed the accident to tanker Erika which broke up and sank off the French coast. He reiterated his remarks at the eighth session of the IMO Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation when, having expressed his regrets for the impact the accident was having on the marine environment and the affected French communities and industries, he added:

"As I understand, the report into the accident has not yet been finalized and, therefore, I suggest that, in the absence of information as to the cause of the loss of the ship, any call for action would be premature at this stage. I suggest that it would be wise to refrain from acting hastily and that prudence would suggest that the investigation into the cause should be accelerated and the results made known as soon as possible, so that, if any action needed to be taken at the regulatory level, it can be introduced into IMO where decisions can be made rapidly after all aspects are carefully considered."

The representatives of the organizations at the meeting strongly endorsed the view that any regulatory action needed in the circumstances should be taken by IMO and expressed their support in promoting this view.

The meeting further noted that the session’s conclusion and recommendations would be brought to the attention of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee and Marine Environment Protection Committee.