New rules for stronger ships from next April

The age-old demand by Greek shipowners that all new ships be strengthened so as to endure the stresses of the sea and give them the greatest possible lifespan will finally be satisfied with the new rules which the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) will enforce from April 1. The world shipping community decided in June to adopt common construction rules in order to enhance the longevity of merchant vessels, as the Greeks, owners of the world’s biggest commercial fleet, had been calling for since the early 1990s. In a meeting last week in Piraeus between officials and technical staff of the IACS and the Greek Union of Shipowners (EEE) there was significant progress toward drafting the common rules, particularly regarding tankers and dry-cargo vessels. Several comments and ideas by the EEE were debated, while the IACS clarified a series of issues related to the existing draft rules, before the EEE presented proposals for further amendments. The two sides, according to EEE sources, agreed on several issues, while those where disagreement remains will be examined further and concluded before the drafting of the rules is complete. As EEE sources say, «the outcome of the meeting will not affect the date of the enforcement of rules, which means that, in any case, they will come into force on April 1 2006.» Greek shipowners, Kathimerini was told, are asking the IACS for common ship monitoring and classification regulations. The recent conference of Intertanko, the world tanker-owners’ association, heard that the rules will take the competition of classification societies to the field of services offered and not to ship construction standards. Classification societies, however, as they compete to attract more shipping companies to their portfolios, put pressure on shipyards to minimize the quantities of steel used and on shipowners to achieve the lowest possible construction cost. They are also shifting their interest in inspections and surveying of the ships’ operation from construction designs to maintenance issues. This process, however, has led to a decline in confidence in the evaluations by registers, while the authorities worry more about the adequacy of ship construction.