A group of 41 oil majors will
make their tanker inspection reports available to port examiners in Europe. They also aim to ensure higher standards for their shared reporting system as part of a raft of initiatives to ensure greater tanker safety in the wake of the Erika incident. "We have been in recent discussions with the Paris MOU secretariat with a view to making SIRE reports more easily available to port state inspectors," Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) Chairman Richard Paniguian said at a news briefing in London.
SIRE (ship inspection reports) do not pass or fail vessels on structural issues but concern operating standards. The Paris MOU is Europe's agreement by which unsafe ships are detained by individual countries' port-based inspectors until repaired.
Paniguian said the SIRE program was an untapped opportunity for port states to target substandard shipping.
But he said he expected the European Union to increase sanctions on oil companies as ship charterers in the wake of the pollution affecting France's coast from the TotalFina-chartered tanker Erika which broke up in December. "Tougher controls may well be imposed on European port state inspectors," he said.
While welcoming tighter controls, OCIMF said it would prefer to see worldwide action taken through the UN's International Maritime Organization (IMO).
OCIMF intends to strengthen its report program to overcome criticism by some oil companies that were not convinced their inspection standards were matched by others. The organization will introduce a system of accreditation by examination for its inspectors by the end of the year.
"Ship inspections are necessary only because, somewhere along the line, someone hasn't been doing their job properly," said OCIMF Director John Hughes. The industry had to work towards ships being well built, run and maintained, he said. The accreditation process would cut the number of inspectors to about 300 from a current 450 as older and part-time examiners were replaced.
"Full time inspectors will undoubtedly cause an improvement to the quality of inspections and serve to increase consistency," Hughes said.
The vessel inspection program is also being extended to cover smaller vessels that can operate either as petroleum or chemical carriers. Up to 300 such ships operating in northern Europe and the Mediterranean would be affected.