Debate on IMO’s Role in developing newbuilding standards

Greece and The Bahamas have called upon the IMO to incorporate into the new Strategic Plan newbuilding standards governing the design and construction of ships. The majority of delegates at IMO’s MSC session fully supported the proposal, whilst the IACS Chairman opposed it.

Greece and the Bahamas have called upon the IMO to incorporate into the new Strategic "goal-based standards" that would govern the design and construction of ships. Please click here for the PDF file.

The joint-submission to IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (in session between 28 May and 6 June) was recognised to be potentially controversial and opposed by the International Association of Classification Societies’ Chairman Alan Gavin. One of his main points was that there was no "factual evidence" to suggest the need for a greater IMO role in setting ship design standards.

Some 35 countries took the floor with the majority supporting the Bahamas/Greek paper. Many referred to the problems that existed with standards today - several referring to the examples provided by INTERTANKO. However, there was a unanimous view that IMO did not have the resources for the necessary research and development and consequently should not become involved in the detailed technical rules that are now developed and maintained by class.

A few (most notably the US) questioned if there was a “compelling need” for change, others, however, disagreed - speaking of inconsistencies, lack of uniform rules, lack of uniform application, etc. Some suggested that IMO must act now as it was unacceptable to wait until there was a complete breakdown of the system and/or an even longer catalogue of issues.

IACS received support for its position from several countries including Australia, Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire, and to a lesser extent from the US and Panama. However, many of the delegations spoke of the essential role played by IACS and the complementary roles of the IMO and IACS. There was no suggestion to take away from IACS its traditional responsibility for the development of rules and many spoke of the dependence of IMO and industry on the technical competence of IACS.

Critics of IACS talked of the negative consequences of competition between class societies, called for additional supervision of class in all its facets, and made detailed observations about particular failures.

INTERTANKO took part in the debate on this important subject stating that the guiding precepts and principles for ship design and construction "goal-based" standards should be set at the highest level, and that the IMO is the appropriate body to do this. However, INTERTANKO acknowledged that the interpretation of these guiding precepts and principles, and the subsequent development of the appropriate rules, should be established through IACS in close consultation with the other stakeholders. A copy of INTERTANKO’s submission can be viewed here

Please click here for INTERTANKO’s introductory remarks.

The conclusion of the discussion was that this matter should be sent to the IMO Council for consideration as part of the IMO strategic plan. It was also agreed that the next MSC would include this subject on their agenda, and in particular would focus on the detail of goal-based standards, principally the extent to which the IMO should set these, as well as the scientific basis for their establishment.

Contact: Dragos Rauta