FINANCIAL considerations must not distract anyone from setting, maintaining or applying acceptable safety standards, according to Lloyd's Register's annual report. It was often suggested that responsibility for safety could only be exercised in an environment from which all commercial considerations were excluded, said Sir Roderick MacLeod in the company's 1992 document. ''On the contrary, I believe that the safety business is a real business and that even those with the most direct responsibilities for safety must be aware of commercial consideration and respond to them,'' said the shipping industry leader who died recently. Sir Roderick's comments form a distillation of the philosophy that guided him, and Lloyd's Register (LR), during the past 10 years. And in focusing on The Business of Safety as the theme of the report, Sir Roderick unequivocally restated the case for classification societies and refuted criticism of the classification system. Emphasising that cost effectiveness played a key part in industrial design, for ships as much as for motor cars, Sir Roderick said a safety organisation needed an impetus to make sure it was fully efficient. He also pointed out that it needed a proper financial contribution for services to be maintained and developed, and research undertaken. ''This is perfectly compatible with maintaining the highest technical and ethical standards,'' he said. ''Indeed, it is likely that an organisation which is not effective in business terms may well be inefficient in other ways also.'' He conceded that the balance between technical and commercial factors was difficult to maintain on a consistent basis and that LR's ability to withstand this perpetual crossfire depended largely on its belief in the value of what it did. Sir Roderick said although LR's maintenance of standards had lost some of its commercial advantages, there were encouraging signs that some clients were prepared to pay for a reliable assurance of safety rather than opt for the cheapest certificate available. The organisation had also continued to put considerable resources and effort into research and development into areas of special concern such as bulk carriers, enhanced survey requirements and applied information engineering, he said. He added that LR and other leading classification societies had given a high priority to transforming the structure, effectiveness and discipline of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS). Field offices and headquarter departments had continued to respond strongly to the management committee's drive for improved commercial performance across the range of LR's activities, assisted by good results from all associates and subsidiaries, Sir Roderick said. According to LR's ship division, it maintained its overall market share and its lead in high-value orders such as LNG and cruise ships. During 1992, LR classed the largest container ships ever built, the 4,469 TEU Bunga Pelangi, Hyundai Admiral and Hyundai Baron, all built by Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. The series has an overall length of 275 metres and a width of 37.1 metres, the hull structure design appraisal was carried out by LR's central Orient plan approval centre in Busan, Korea.