"The loss of the Erika has focused the legislators, politicians, classification societies, owners, charterers and the media on the responsibilities of the individuals involved with the operation of ships and those that perform the inspections to maintain safety", said Alan Gavin, Marine Director, Lloyd's Register (LR), speaking at the Tanker Safety
Conference, London, recently. "The classification surveyor plays a significant role in helping to ensure safety at sea within the scope of class surveys - but only through action by all parties involved can the efforts of individuals be put to best effect in lowering risk."
Speaking of LR's own perspective on the issue, Gavin continued, "LR has always been committed to promoting high standards of safety, quality and environmental protection within the shipping industry. This pledge is enshrined in LR's constitution and is demonstrated by its commitment to maintaining a high quality classed fleet. Along with other major classification societies, LR has a few ships in its classed fleet where insufficient maintenance is carried out. We are committed to helping the operators of such ships raise the standards of maintenance and repair to an acceptable level. Without this commitment, the problem may sail away and remain a continuing threat.
"We have taken initiatives both for the LR-classed fleet and with other International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) members, e.g. recent strengthening of the Transfer of Class agreement. However, in cases where operators cannot or will not raise standards to acceptable levels, it must be clear that there will be no place in the LR-classed fleet for such ships. Our surveyors are under instruction to report all cases of serious lack of maintenance. These ships will be monitored and may then be targeted for unscheduled follow-up surveys.
"This position has already been made very clear to owners of LR-classed ships through Classification News on ClassDirect Live (www.cdlive.lr.org) during August. Details of ships suspended from LR class, together with the reason for the suspension, will be posted on LR's Web site (www.lr.org) from this month."
Returning to the theme that marine safety is the responsibility of many parties, Gavin continued: "Port state control (PSC) records can provide a useful index to sub-standard ships and LR welcomes any evidence that helps to identify sub-standard tonnage, so that potential problems can be addressed as soon as possible - lowering the immediate risk to safety and the environment. The criteria for compiling PSC statistics currently varies between the major administrations, and figures are not directly comparable. LR therefore welcomes recent moves to provide a common approach to port state detention statistical reporting, so that an accurate global view can be obtained.
"LR is also working with flag states by providing on-line access through ClassDirect Live to the latest survey information on the ships registered with the respective administrations. This information has always been available to the flag states - we are now making it far more accessible. Five administrations are now registered as ClassDirect Live users."
Gavin concluded: "There is no magic wand to prevent another Erika, but survey and reporting procedures are in place which, if followed by all of the stakeholders - the shipowner, charterer, ship's crew, class society, surveyor, flag state, port state control, and underwriter, - the risks to safety and to the environment will be greatly reduced".