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Tuesday, September 25, 2018


A special meeting of the European Community Shipowners Associations (ECSA), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and INTERTANKO was held at the offices of the French Shipowners Association in Paris on 20 January 1999.

Meeting to reflect on the tanker safety and pollution prevention lessons that could be learnt from the Erika oil spill off the French coast in December, the shipowners confirmed their commitment to rigorous implementation of the existing body of maritime safety and environmental protection regulations on a global basis. Adherence to the European Union’ s new Quality Shipping Campaign provides a most useful way of achieving this goal. The shipowners particularly welcomed the embodiment of the Chain of Responsibility concept in the Campaign, pointing out that it provides the opportunity for all the players involved in the safe passage of ships to fulfil their obligations in an open and cooperative manner.

The shipping industry is grateful that the French authorities were able to prepare a preliminary report on the Erika accident at an early stage. It contains a number of ideas which merit further consideration. The conclusion drawn in respect of the professionalism of the tanker crew has been welcomed by the industry. Shipowners believe the results of the final accident investigation will reveal that certain structural deficiencies are at the root cause of the spill, and that it is in the areas of classification society and flag state control that the most critical structural deficiencies exist.

At the January meeting the shipowners agreed that the crucial role played by the classification societies in the international safety regime needs to be strengthened and improved, and that the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) must reinforce efforts to ensure the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the sector as a whole. More specifically, the owners encouraged greater cooperation between class societies to ensure consistently high worldwide standards; enhanced transparency and communication; the avoidance of unjustified hopping between societies for ship classification; improved class inspections, particularly in respect of construction standards and stress calculations and monitoring. There may also be a need to examine a tightening up of the criteria for both class society auditing procedures and the recognition of class societies.

The Erika accident has also highlighted the need for credible flag state control of ships on a worldwide basis. Flag state administrations must have the necessary qualified staff, funding and management structure in place. While the difficulties of achieving this goal globally are recognised, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) needs to continue its work on this issue as a priority. In the European context, shipowners welcome the Commission¹s intention of ensuring that the necessary administrative structures for flag states are in place in the relevant applicant countries as part of the ongoing EU accession negotiations.

At their 20 January meeting the shipowners also agreed a number of recommendations which other sectors of the maritime industry need to consider in the ongoing drive to improve maritime safety. These can be summarised as follows:

  1. The European Quality Shipping Information System (EQUASIS) is a ship database being introduced as part of the EU Quality Shipping Campaign which should be used as a means of encouraging charterers to charter vessels on the basis of comprehensive, accurate and easily accessible information.
  2. Ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of port state control (PSC) need to be intensified. Improved cooperation between PSC regimes worldwide in order to harmonise inspection/targeting criteria and encourage mutual recognition of certificates, and the naming of the charterer in PSC detention notices would be useful first steps. Also with regard to ports, international rules defining the circumstances under which ports should accept vessels in distress should be developed.
  3. There is a comprehensive, international oil spill compensation regime in place which operated successfully over recent years and which should be adequate to cover the consequences of the Erika spill. Nevertheless, the shipping industry is committed to reviewing the present levels should they prove inadequate.
  4. To date no evidence has emerged to indicate that ship age is a relevant issue in the case of Erika. Nevertheless, there is merit in a legitimate debate on the effectiveness of the existing single hull tanker phase out regimes. Any decisions stemming from such discussions should have international applicability.
  5. The issue of more frequent structural inspections of oil tankers over a certain age merits further examination. Discussions could be carried out in the context of the expanded PSC inspection regime.

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