Paris MOU Figures Reveal Increase in Safety Management Defects

Tuesday, July 09, 2002
After nearly 20 years of operation the Paris MOU has set its course for the years ahead. Determined targeting of substandard ships, greater transparency to the outside world and a higher level of harmonization and quality are goals for the future. At the same time ship owners, flag States, classification societies and charterers will be held accountable for their performance and involvement with sub-standard ships. While on the other hand, companies, ships and flags with a good safety record will be rewarded for investing in quality shipping. The overall figures for 2001 are very similar to those of 2000. The total numbers of inspections, individual ships and ships detained do not show substantial change and therefore provide a platform for comparing other aspects which indicate trends in the safety of shipping. When looking at the chain of responsibility in the shipping industry it is evident that many companies operating older tonnage do not show a great interest in proper safety standards. Recognizing that not every old ship is necessarily a bad ship, the figures indicate that in areas related to safety, the marine environment, operational standards and implementation of a safety management system in particular, such owners pose a great risk. Apparently a number of flag States which are responsible for certifying these ships have more concern for their revenues than safety standards. Some registers have managed to find their way to the top of the Black List in a single year. Other notorious flags seem to be comfortable with their position on the Black List and have not shown any sign of improvement over the years. Several other flags have fortunately taken positive steps to improve their record and are no longer considered a "risk flag". To take account of the important role of classification societies when acting on behalf of a flag State, their responsibility has been closely monitored. Figures for 2001 indicate that in 22% of 1,699 detentions the classification society was held responsible (380). From these 380 class related detentions 78% (297) were attributed to class societies acting on behalf of flags on the Black List. Alan Cubbin, Chairman of the Port State Control Committee, said: "This may indicate that safety is or can be measured by double standards. Perhaps the time is right for classification societies to become more discriminating in whom they represent." The number of deficiencies recorded during port State control inspections in 2001 (68,756) showed a slight increase and is only 1.5% higher when compared with last year. The increasing trend in operational deficiencies related to safety procedures is still continuing at an alarming rate. Since 1999 there has been an increase of 29%. Ships older than 15 years show over 11 times as many operational deficiencies as ships less than 5 years old. Of even greater concern is a steep increase in safety management defects which over 3 years have increased by 150%. Again ships older than 15 years show 14 times as many non-conformities as ships less than 5 year old. Richard Schiferli, General Secretary of the MOU said: "Since all ISM compliant ships have been subject to several audits by the company and flag or classification society since they were certified in 1998, the standard of non-compliance should be cause for concern. At the same time questions can be raised as to how the companies of these ships managed to obtain a Document of Compliance." It is widely recognized that there is a close correlation between safety and working and living conditions (ILO Convention No. 147). Deficiency rates have increased over many years. In particular older bulk carriers and general dry cargo ships are sometimes found in an appalling condition for the crew. Combined with contracts of long service on board and extensive working hours there is no room for a safety culture on board these ships. Unfortunately many flag States and classification societies take no interest or deny their competence and leave it to port States to pick up the pieces.
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