ISM compliance level fears
About 9,600 ships have received certification to the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, which came into force on July 1.
This is equivalent to 77 per cent of the 12,500 vessels that are believed to require certification, and 10 per cent less than the International Maritime Organisation estimated would comply.
The figures, from the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) white list, are current up to June 30 and have been provided by IACS member societies and maritime administrations.
'The question that has to be asked is: 'What has happened to the rest?' ' Captain Andy Morris, ISM co-ordinator for Lloyd's Register of Shipping, said.
He said the figures showed about 20 per cent of the world's shipping fleet was still non-compliant.
'A fair proportion of vessels are running between countries where controls are not so tight. The other question is whether the estimate [of the number of ships requiring certification] was right in the first place,' he said.
'Four years ago the estimate was 20,000, but it has gradually whittled down to 12,500 vessels.' Several hundred vessels also might be exempted because they are operated in coastal trade in one country. This is especially true in the mainland. Others are excluded because they are on government business where ISM rules do not apply.
One Middle Eastern country also is believed to have exempted a large part of its fleet because it realised it would not receive ISM certification in time, but its ships can trade locally anyway.
Less clear is the number of detentions under port state control (PSC) since the ISM code came into force.
The Hong Kong Marine Department detained three vessels within days of the new ship safety regulations coming into force.
One of the vessels - a Singaporean-flagged tanker - was detained because a member of its crew was unfamiliar with the ship's operations, even though all other documentation and certificates were in order.
The vessel was allowed to sail after the department contacted the ship's certification society to ensure proper follow-up action would be taken.
The other two detained vessels - another oil tanker and a chemical tanker - have had to remain in port until faults are rectified.
Many PSC organisations said they would have a six-month blitz immediately after ISM Code's July 1 deadline as a warning to operator.
However, PSC bodies generally have adopted a kid-glove approach as they are aware that too many detentions over relatively minor infringements will cause congestion and cargo-handling delays.
They said if minor deficiencies were found they would notify the vessel's flag state and classification society and, with their agreement, the ship could sail. But the vessel would not be allowed back into port until the problems were repaired.