RINA, which passed the tanker that sank off France
in December, said the vessel broke up as a result of cracking of its hull. An internal inquiry into the loss of the 25-year-old Maltese-flag tanker Erika pointed to a small structural failure or leak low in the hull structure, the classification society said. "This was followed by cracking which eventually led to the collapse of the hull," RINA said. Erika's break up led to the pollution of French beaches
and criticism that TotalFina, which chartered the ship, didn't take enough responsibility for the damage. Classification societies, which oversee ship safety standards, have also come under fire since the accident.
In the hornet's nest of criticism that has ensued, RINA said it believed it had acted correctly.
But it said it had not been able to gather information on eight sisterships to the Erika that had suffered difficulties that may have pointed to weaknesses in the ship.
"All of these ships have suffered structural problems. Three of them, other than the Erika, were serious. No information on this history of problems was available," RINA chief executive Nicola Squassafichi said.
It recommended that the ship inspectors swap all their information as vessels changed classification.
RINA said it has asked the Maltese and Italian administrations to cancel the International Safety Management (ISM) certification, necessary to operate vessels in European waters, held by the Erika's operator Panship Management. It also said it has appointed an independent marine engineering
group to conduct further investigations into the Erika's loss.
These included possible poor loading, mishandling, bad repairs or that the Erika hit a floating object.
The ship and its sisters' records would also be examined as well as oil company and port inspectorate tanker vetting systems.
The French government has pledged to stiffen tanker safety standards when it takes over the European Union presidency in the second half of this year.