New IACS head pledges focus on quality and ties with owners

Ugo Salerno, CEO of Registro Italiano Navale Group (RINA) – one of the world’s oldest ship classification societies – is to assume the post of president of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) early this summer. A man with a long service in shipping, Salerno has ensured that RINA placed emphasis on quality and fidelity with the companies it works with. Founded in 1861 and a founding member of IACS, RINA today oversees ships totaling a capacity of 65 million tons. Last year, it reported a turnover of 100 million euros, 60 percent of which came from land-based activities. Salerno was in Athens last month. «I came to see some partners but mainly some old and good and friends. My ties with Greece are long and strong, not just professional,» he stresses. So, you are moving to IACS in the summer. Yes, and I would not say it is an easy time for shipping. But the right decisions sometimes arise from the difficulties! Shipping, as you know, is a sector that almost always operates under conditions of pressure. However, decisions have to be made with a cool head, and don’t ask me how it’s done. It may sound incredible but it’s actually always done this way! What are your plans? The first thing we must take care of is the further strengthening of IACS’s ties with the shipping industry, where quality is now the chief concern. And quality now means safety in navigation and IACS, as you know, has to exercise continuous vigilance in this direction. We shall pursue further steps toward improving relations with shipowners. Regarding the Prestige accident off the coast of Spain last November, how can everyone be so critical of the tanker sector as a whole when ports of refuge have still to be determined? I wish to stress that ports of refuge are one of the elements of the «Erica» package and the European Union is obliged to create them. A refuge, you know, does not have to be a port, it can be another specially designated area where the necessary facilities and means are provided in an emergency. If European governments had implemented the provision, we might have avoided this environmental tragedy. The measures that many governments adopt often seem piecemeal and cause confusion and problems. It would have been much better if the measures adopted were approved by the International Maritime Organization, which possesses both sensitivity and knowledge. As you say, the decisions adopted piecemeal create more problems than they solve. Let’s talk about the Italian Register. You know, Greece is the second biggest force in RINA. We are a big organization but do not stress the quantity as much as the quality of our clients. We maintain 50 offices, 25 of them outside Italy. In 2002 we were top-graded by IACS. Not one of the vessels registered with us was found on a black list. There is no secret behind this, it’s just the provision of quality services. You can ask our Greek clients, Ceres, Nomikos and Festival Cruises. We want to do more business with Greeks. The Greeks know shipping better than anybody. What can be done about attracting more trained seamen to the profession? Their numbers are dwindling when they are needed most. It is a serious problem, as everyone knows. Shipping needs modern seamen and the answer lies in more and proper training. RINA spends 5 percent of its turnover on seamen’s further training. What about Italian shipping? It is not as big as Greece’s but is considered one of the most modern fleets. About 65 percent of Italian-flagged tankers are double-hulled. Do Italian banks give adequate backing to Italian shipowners? Of course! There is no problem in this field. The banks are there, particularly during difficult times. They are aware how sensitive and volatile the shipping sector is. Salerno stresses that the job at hand is not important just economically but also socially. «The sea is a source of life and safety in navigation is imperative for the earth’s environmental balance. I believe that the modernization of ships will bring us very near the desired result.»

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