The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) is concentrating on boosting primary defences to enhance safety of vessels instead of second-line defences, chairman Dong Jiufeng says. Mr Dong, who is also chairman and president of the China Classification Society (CCS), said the primary defences involved strengthening structures of newbuildings, their concepts and other areas. He said the issue of homogenous or alternative loading of bulk carriers, considered a second line of defence, was only one of the measures being looked at by IACS. 'There are no compulsory rules. It really depends on what the owners' side wants to do,' he added. 'There are different opinions about the loading and we will try to co-ordinate the views before putting forward any proposals (to the International Maritime Organisation),' Mr Dong told reporters after a lunch talk organised by the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association. He said proposals for amendments to IMO's international convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) would be submitted to IMO before October 1. If everything went well, the package of amendments to Solas would be adopted by a conference in May next year and come into force on July 1, 1998. During his lunch talk, Mr Dong said the IMO had established a correspondence group to enhance safety of bulk carriers carrying high-density cargo. Proposals to the IMO by the group included survivability standards of existing ships, involving their design and construction, operational standards, survey requirements, ship/shore interface and management, and training. A working group, set up by the IMO, agreed that urgent measures were needed to improve safety of ships such as single-hull bulk carriers of 20,000 deadweight tonnes and above which might be banned from carrying high-density solid bulk cargoes, such as ore, unless they complied with certain conditions. The conditions included being able to meet at least a one-compartment standard of sub-division for any cargo hold in all relevant loading conditions with high density cargo. Vessels more than 10 years old should have cargo holds up to minimum standards in accordance with the Enhanced Survey Programme and should possess a safety construction certificate endorsed to confirm all conditions had been fulfilled. Mr Dong said later this year and early next year, regulations would be brought out to improve the world's bulk carrier fleet and help achieve 'safer shipping'.