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Friday, March 23, 2018


INTERTANKO recently met with Mr. Tim Knowles and Mr. Kim Kanghong of ExxonMobil to discuss vetting issues experienced by INTERTANKO members following the merger of the two companies and also to learn what the new method of operation for ExxonMobil will be.

The following is a review of the impressions formed from this meeting:


In view of the changes, the best method of communication to ExxonMobil vetting personnel is by fax.  Most of the time the Vetting Personnel have their voice mail on so that there is an inevitable delay.  In addition, if the telephone call is only to push one’s claim for attention up the list, this just slows down the whole process.  It is not considered likely that this will in fact speed up attention to the vetting issue.  E-mails are acceptable if you are certain to whom the message should be sent.  (Inspection arrangers may get over 120 e-mails a day.) Previously, companies were serviced by defined personnel, where as now there is a pooling arrangement, with the next company in line being dealt with next.  Should you have sent the email to a particularly busy person or who is not in the office at that time this may result in a further delay.  Thus the best method is considered to be by fax.  The number for inspections is + 44 1372 2223854.


The process followed is that there is a team arranging, co-ordinating and entering the inspections and feed back.  There is a separate team that undertake the screenings of the tanker for a particular piece of business.  When requesting an inspection, ExxonMobil request that you give them as much time and advance notice as is possible, along with an explanation of why inspection of the tanker is being requested.  As has been mentioned before in the Weekly News, there is no period approval given by ExxonMobil for their vetting inspections. Owners will get a letter from ExxonMobil when they are satisfied that they have sufficient information to make an assessment of the tanker and its operator.  However if there are any changes in circumstances then ExxonMobil should be advised.  Owners should consider re-inspection after 6 months.

The new vetting organisation is still being filled in with further personnel, and fuller details will be passed to INTERTANKO when all personnel are in place.  It is anticipated that there will be four people in inspection and evaluation, with 2 screeners in the US, 2 screeners in Singapore and 5 screeners in the UK.

Owners will be rated into four categories.  Good, Above Average, Average and Unacceptable.  Term Charters and COA will only go to higher rated owners.


ExxonMobil has been undertaking a worldwide training programme for their inspectors.  They have introduced measures to ensure that only the best are vetting for them and that this is to a consistent standard.  ExxonMobil were at pains to point out that the complaints regarding inspectors in general have been addressed, such as reporting to the Master and following up the observations made with the Master prior to departure.  In addition, the meetings introduced the inspectors to the new ExxonMobil organisation and their qualification and certification requirements.  There was interest in knowing of poor inspectors and so members’ participation with the Feedback form is appreciated.


Yes, ExxonMobil are currently in the final stages of getting legal approval of a new document to be called the Marine Safety Criteria.  It is hoped that this will start to be distributed by the end of May. INTERTANKO suggested that if this was put onto CD it could be distributed with much greater ease, similar to the SIRE VPQ distributed to all INTERTANKO Vetting Contacts earlier this month.  The point was noted.  The content will be very similar to the last booklet but will be applicable to smaller tonnage than in the earlier version.

In addition it can be expected that the request for special survey information, which is then reviewed by their in house Naval Architect, will be extended to cover smaller and different ship types and where there is a possibility of a class type reviews of tankers with pitting problems.


It is clear that of particular interest will be the number of deficiencies that are reported. In their mind even if these are small deficiencies, if there are a number of them then this is indicative of a bigger problem elsewhere in the organisation.  ExxonMobil consider there is not the system in place to take care of the number of deficiencies that are observed, even if minor in nature.  It should never be forgotten that ExxonMobil are undertaking an exercise in Risk Management.  They want to see that there are procedures in place to ensure that there will not be repetition of a deficiency.  Thus it is particularly important to prepare the ship for the inspection by going through all the questions in advance.  If there are any deficiencies to regulations, this will be followed up with questions about a management system that condones such a state of affairs.

There are still companies with outstanding VPQs to be entered into SIRE.  Again this is information that is needed by the charterer, in considering the tanker for charter, even to check such basic information as if the tanker fits the berth.  It was admitted that the absence of such information and difficulty in subsequently obtaining it from the owner/operator can lead to the tanker being discarded in favour of a tanker which does have the information in the VPQ correctly entered to SIRE.  As more and more phases of the approval become automated, the need for the complete and correct VPQ becomes yet more crucial.  The importance of the VPQ being entered in SIRE cannot be over emphasised.

Should ExxonMobil put a ship or company on hold, then this can only be lifted by one senior manager.  A very thorough scrutiny and justification is required prior to lifting the hold.  The adverse publicity of re-charterering a tanker they had put on hold, which then has an incident, can easily be imagined.

In addition ExxonMobil is making visits to companies.  They sometimes are  surprised at the lack of preparation for these meetings.    Some basic preparations should be undertaken.  Safety records and statistics should be properly documented and available prior to the meeting. ExxonMobil is beginning to request such information ahead of a meeting and if it is not provided then they cancel the meeting, as they consider the information is not there to have a meeting about.  In company visits they are also looking to see the ability of the company to respond in the event of an incident.  This has to be well beyond a white board and a couple of clocks for different time zones.  This is about contingency plans with assigned responsibilities, with sufficient redundancy to extend beyond the first frantic hours.  There should be drills undertaken to test the procedures put in place.  Other issues considered will be a breakdown of mechanical performance, and terminal reports.  Evaluations are done on a number of sections and then reviewed by 4 different people.


Every observation made should be commented on.  Any items not answered, which may appear trivial, mean that an ExxonMobil screener will have to follow up to see what is the current status. In any deficiency/observation, there should be an identified cause, the deficiency fixed, with a preventive action to prevent repetition.  It should all be documented.  In particular when this is to an ExxonMobil inspection, follow up with a report when a matter is closed out.  ExxonMobil have one person who enters information on any event that happens to a tanker reported in the media, information services, from their own terminals, PSC and else where.  You may as well give them your version of events before they get it from somewhere else.

Members are requested not phone in these comments.  Recognise that ExxonMobil is large corporation which needs to be able to document the status before moving on, due to the fact that it is a fully audited and controlled business. Nothing written, nothing doing.


As before, ExxonMobil are not keen on new ships on first voyages on account of the high number of incidents that have occurred on first voyages.  Similarly those ships that are up for sale are cause for concern on account of reduced maintenance, lesser crews and general wind down.  If a ship is going up For Sale write to ExxonMobil and inform them what is going on.  There may be a charter party clause prohibiting sale during the course of the C/P unless with the approval of the charterer any way.  As with much else the quality and reputation of the owner will count for a lot.