ISTEC Chairman, Dr Nikos Mikelis, together with INTERTANKO MD, Dr Peter Swift, and Technical Director, Dragos Rauta, met members, associate members and other guests for a half-day Seminar in Houston on 15 February. This was part of a two-day visit which also included meetings with the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and USCG Marine Safety Office.

Meeting with ABS

Present at the meeting with INTERTANKO representatives were Frank Iarossi, Chairman; Bob Somerville, President; Don Lieu, Senior Vice-President and Gus Bourneuf, Chief Surveyor of the American Bureau of Shipping.

Discussions covered a wide range of issues under the Class Societies activity (both as Class and as Recognised Organisation) which INTERTANKO has on its priority list. This included the issue of newbuilding standards, coating standards and procedures, procedures for accident investigations and lessons to be learned from such accidents/incidents.

Surveys of ships under the new CAS and other related procedures were also discussed. We also sought further clarification on how ABS intended to implement their recent decision to decline a ship’s request for SMC certification if the ship either is not classed by ABS or if it is classed by another Class Society and ABS is not allowed to have an SMC annual check on it.

There was also considerable discussion to clarify aspects of ABS’ accident investigation report of the Castor incident and the proposals that have emerged subsequently.

The meeting, the first of its kind at the ABS Headquarters, was mutually regarded as effective and constructive and it was agreed that similar meetings should be arranged in future when appropriate.

Meeting with USCG – Marine Safety Office (MSO) in Houston

INTERTANKO representatives met Captain of the Port (COPT) Kevin Cook and senior colleagues. The following emerged from the meeting:

Data on Houston port

  • Houston port (including Galveston and the Free Port) has some 7600 ship arrivals/year.
  • There are some 700 transits/day (transit = each ship, barge, tug, etc. which checks in with the VTS)
  • 50% of the gasoline used in US is refined in the Houston area
  • 22% of the crude oil imported through Houston is brought in through lightering
  • Some 40 gas ships and barges arrive per week.
  • Relevant statistics for 2001 were provided.


  • Boarding ships is now typically 30 to 40 miles offshore
  • ETA of 96 hours (about which most ships complain) does help to have an efficient security control without delaying ships. USCG is selective about the ships it boards and the check lasts a maximum of 60 to 90 minutes.
  • MSO documents on measures to secure ships and waterfront facilities were handed out
  • Terminals go beyond the USCG recommendations and they do not permit ships to bunker or take provisions while at berth. Ships have to go to anchor.
  • Ships’ crews are requested to report anything they consider to be unusual to the authorities. Many details, when put together could be important. Houston COTP enjoys very good cooperation with the Federal Agency that monitors security.
  • Tankers shall provide continuous roving topside patrols once moored.

Port State Control

  • Tankers have a good record. Only 1 to 2 oil tankers are detained per year because of non-compliance with the ISM Code. Gas and/or chemical tankers have a similar record.
  • The local Maritime Safety Office (MSO) considers that lack of compliance with the ISM Code generates “a chronic type of problem”. The failures assessed as “acute problems” are generated by incidents that any hardware mechanism may experience from time to time but, although warranting detention, they are not due to lack of good onboard management.
  • There is, however, some doubt about the overall efficiency of the ISM Code. Some 50% of ships (any type) detained for ISM Code infringements subsequently acquire a new Master that knows the company procedures better.
  • The most serious reason for detention is the bypassing of the oil discharge monitoring systems in the engine rooms. Sometimes PSC detains a ship not because the bypassing equipment has been installed, but because they find these pipes stored in the engine room or other places. USCG believes the matter is much more serious than it is thought to be. Tankers should be aware that this could be considered a criminal offence in US.

For further details contactDragos Rauta