Firms must fall into line or risk going out of business, IMO official says
WONG JOON SAN
A safety official has warned Asian shipowners they risk being put out of business if they fail to immediately implement an international maritime safety code.
The International Safety Management (ISM) code would arrive on July 1, 1998, and it would be implemented, Otto Dijxhoorn, a senior official of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), told a regional shipping conference.
'Unless action is taken immediately, many shipping companies could find themselves without the accreditation required by the code and this could adversely impact on their ability to carry on their business,' he warned.
The safety code was adopted by the maritime organisation in November 1993, covering passenger ships, tankers, gas and bulk carriers and high-speed cargo craft of 500 gross tonnes and above.
The code is aimed at ensuring safety at sea, preventing human injury or loss of life and avoiding damage to the marine environment.
It calls for officers on board vessels to develop, implement and assess safety and pollution prevention management according to a set of specified guidelines.
Many shipping lines have not moved to comply, but in Hong Kong, a recent poll of members of the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association showed all surveyed had obtained or applied for certification.
Association director-designate Arthur Bowring said of the 74 per cent who replied to the survey, 50 per cent already had the code's Document of Compliance certification or equivalent while 34 had obtained the full safety certificate.
Hong Kong port has increased efforts to ensure safety at sea. Last year, the number of vessels detained under port state control by the Hong Kong Marine Department increased by 36.27 per cent.
Mr Dijxhoorn said the IMO had warned governments and the industry repeatedly that setting up the safety management system required by the code could take as long as two years.
'It is therefore surprising that so many shipping companies have not yet even started the accreditation process,' he said.
'If a start is not made immediately, the risk of missing the July 1998 deadline will increase enormously.' Many governments too had failed to put in place auditing procedures necessary to verify compliance.
When a ship enters a foreign port, authorities there will have the right to board the vessel and verify that it meets maritime organisation requirements. Ships will not be allowed to sail until safety standards are met.
In the past, shipowners seeking to avoid stringent regulations could register their ships in a country with a poor implementation record.
In Singapore, only about 20 per cent of 990 ships which came under the purview of the code had implemented it, and 30 per cent were in the process of doing so, officials said.
However, Maritime and Port Authority director Lee Seng Kong said Singapore was determined to meet the deadline.