Owners seek uniform inspections
WONG JOON SAN
The Asian Shipowners' Forum safe-navigation committee is greatly concerned about the rising number of inconsistent and non-uniform inspections being carried out by port-state control.
As some inspectors had been observed to have misinterpreted International Safety Management (ISM) code requirements, there should be uniform inspections by all port states, the committee said.
'The quality of the data, the availability of information and the efficiency of communication links are all very important as more port-state control regimes are formed around the world, especially in areas where corruption might be endemic,' the committee said.
It proposed the establishment of an efficient and transparent database system to prevent power abuse and wide variations in the way some port-state control inspectors operated.
It said a three-month campaign by port authorities had found that the number of ships complying with the ISM code, which took effect on July 1, was higher than expected.
The committee, which met recently in Singapore, said it fully supported the International Maritime Organisation's effort to reduce bulk carrier casualties through the adoption of provisions of the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) Convention.
It was premature to apply the formal safety assessment process to a generic ship type as diverse as bulk carriers, it said.
It said it did not support the application of the Solas provisions to double-hull bulk carriers, nor to bulk carriers less than 150 metres in length.
Also, the committee urged shipowners to have global maritime distress and safety system (GMDSS) equipment fitted well ahead of the enforcement deadline on February 1. It urged shipowners of Solas or non-Solas flag states to comply with the Solas requirements by fitting the GMDSS equipment.
On the issue of year-2000 computer compliance, the committee said it was a complex problem for the industry as it might affect ships' equipment fitted with computerised date-related functions or embedded microchips.
The situation was complicated by the lack of a standard method of handling the problem and assessing compliance, it said.
Manufacturers and suppliers also have refused to disclose or declare whether their equipment was year-2000 compliant.
The committee urged the International Association of Classification Societies, as a central body, to start work immediately with suppliers, manufacturers and shipowners' organisations to create a database of equipment compliance information for the global shipping industry.
Meanwhile, the committee urged shipowners to support the mandatory ship reporting system in the Straits of Singapore and Malacca which became effective on December 1.
It said it was still concerned about the high rate of attacks on ships that occur in Asian waters, although the third-quarterly report of the International Maritime Bureau revealed that reported incidences of piracy and armed attacks on ships worldwide in the first nine months of the year had declined by 32.2 per cent, or 40 cases.
Of the 126 cases of actual and attempted attacks on ships worldwide, 72 had occurred in Asian waters.