Strength Through Unity

By Bernard Anne, marine director, Bureau Veritas

Classification societies face one major issue today. That is to define the scope of class and to ensure that the great reservoir of technical strength which class represents is put firmly behind a drive towards ever safer shipping. The challenge for all of us is to harness the strength of class by getting all parts of it working together, rather than dissipating it by working individually in different directions.

Within that challenge there are two distinct and difficult issues. One is technical, the other philosophical. First, the philosophical point. Who should set standards for ships' structure? Today, we have the IMO, which makes rules and regulations for shipping, and we have a number of individual classification societies, which have all developed different detailed rules for construction of ships.

It is an untidy situation, which has developed for historic reasons. But in fact, it is a system, which has served shipping well, fostering technical innovation, and allowing massive gains in productivity as ship types evolve. Our ships have never been stronger, nor safer, nor our seas cleaner. But the industry we serve is unhappy with the current situation, and so are some flag states. And frankly, the public and politicians cannot understand it. It is time for a change. The change is simply that we have to move together to a new framework in which IMO nation states do what they do best, which is to set the acceptable standard of safety the world wants from ships.

Then class societies can work together to do what they do best, which is produce detailed harmonized rules that deliver the standards set by IMO. We can make that change, and IACS has already taken the first steps towards doing so, by agreeing to work in a unified and co-operative manner to produce common classification rules for newbuilding scantlings.

The first issues to be tackled will be double hull bulkers and tankers, to be followed by all ship types.

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 55,  Aug 2003

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Maritime Reporter

First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.