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Saturday, January 20, 2018

ERIKA, VETTING AND THE REGULATORS

The Vetting Committee welcomed the participation in the meeting of M. Grand Pierre of TotalFinaElf. He kindly informed the Committee about the recent Charter that had been signed with the French Government by those charterers operating within France.

He made clear that the chartering policies of the multinationals such as Shell, BP and Exxon were only applicable to tankers calling French ports. It was highlighted that there were still two investigations being undertaken within France, (as well as those by classification societies and Flag States). One is being done from the Port of Dunkirk and the other in Paris. The results can be expected later in the year.

There remain some ambiguities regarding the French Government Charter. For example, it is not known if the French Government considers that all charterering worldwide should be according to their charter or only that for France-bound tankers. There is also confusion as to which types of ships it applies to. At present Elf applies it to all ships employed in the carriage of liquids/hydrocarbons, whether they are an oil, gas or chemical tanker.

Those trying to apply the requirements of the French Charter are also experiencing difficulties finding countries complying with the ILO conventions. There was recent confusion over some countries such as Malta, but the fact is that not even France is a signatory to all the ILO conventions.

On a more practical basis there is also the requirement of the maximum 30-month period between dry-docking. This limits tanker availability. This measure only seems to restrict the period of availability to charter a tanker, as ballast/cargo tank examinations are inspected internally rather than externally. (TotalFina has some 32 tankers on time charter and only 8 of those are under the French flag.)

Regarding other companies and their policies for France, Shell reported that Shell France is pre-screening all tankers bound for France in conjunction with Shell.  BP is seeking clarification from the French Government to see if it is possible to use CDI instead of the requirement for a report in SIRE. However France-bound tankers comply to the letter with the requirements. Texaco have made no changes to their vetting policies so far, but are looking for accurate information on the structural condition of the tanker. They will also request that ballast tanks are opened for a "flash light inspection". It is understood that Exxon have introduced no new vetting procedures post Erika. The watchword from all is that far greater vetting efforts are being made with approvals. One charterer reported that government officials had come into their vetting department and demanded to know the criteria that had been used to approve a tanker. They pointed out that a SIRE report is a discoverable document.

One aspect of the Erika was that the period approvals that the tanker carried at the time of her demise have proved an embarrassment to the charterers who had approved the tanker. TotalFina reported at the meeting that they had immediately pulled all the SIRE reports on the Erika to see if their report was noticeably different. However they all appeared to be consistent.

With the amalgamations there has been a reduction in the number of available inspectors, making the process of getting an inspection that more difficult. On the other hand charterers present confirmed that they were making much more use of the vetting inspection reports contained within SIRE, post Erika. Shell gave a striking example of 200 SIRE reports drawn down from SIRE and the tankers approved on this basis in 1998.  The first quarter of 2000, they had already drawn down in excess of 400 SIRE reports.

A consensus view from charterers’ vetting departments appears to be that they are going to require access to the full class files of the tanker. This is not going to be restricted to the last quarterly listing, but the whole files in the class office. As to the class being used, well nothing specific has been said here but it is clear that OCIMF members are less than satisfied with what they see as the failure of class and their consequent exposure to pollution claims. It can be expected that Class will be pressured by OCIMF to compensate third parties for their failures. In addition concerns have been voiced within the industry at the differing levels of performance of IACS’ members, and charterers will have heard this along with the rest of the industry. For further information mailto:robert.bishop@intertanko.com