Inspection Groups Mull Changes

Friday, January 28, 2000
Ship inspection organizations, criticized in the wake of the Erika oil spill, are considering changes to their procedures. A special meeting has been called to review procedures and take first steps to implementing changes, the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) said. A number of shipping experts have asked whether the ship classification system is working after the Erika, which was passed fit, broke up in December spilling oil on French beaches. IACS stressed it was too early to jump to conclusions until the investigation by the ship's flag register Malta had been concluded. But it said it was determined to act as information on the causes of the casualty came to light. A number of changes to international safety regulations were being discussed, IACS chairman Hans Payer said. These included reinforcing enhanced survey regulations for old tankers at the International Maritime Organization and the immediate transmission of countries' port inspection reports to classification societies. Vessels carrying fuel oil, which is particularly heavy and difficult to clean up, could come under more stringent rules, Payer added. Erika was carrying a cargo of 25,000 tons of fuel oil. Shipping industry insiders say the chain by which responsibility is devolved from the flag state which registers the ship to the classification society which inspects it but is employed by the shipowner can lead to difficulties in pinning down accountability.

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