Japanese classification society Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (NKK) plans to strengthen its services through changes to regulations governing hull structure and new technology. NKK chairman and president Tadashi Mano admitted the changes would have an impact on the shipbuilding industry, but said they were necessary to improve standards which had been developed mostly based on experience. 'We must introduce theoretical progress into the regulations,' he said, adding the review of the rules, which had started two years ago, would be completed by March 2002. Mr Mano, visiting Hong Kong, said NKK aimed to standardise regulations as they had no consistency. In carrying out the review, NKK would keep everything transparent from ship design to shipbuilding, he said, adding that efforts also would be made to improve the quality of the society's services. NKK, which has classified 6,500 vessels, employs about 900 staff. It has 20 offices in Japan and 60 outside the country. Mr Mano said only 0.5 per cent of NKK-classified vessels that called at United States ports were found by the US Coast Guard to have deficiencies. This was far below the 2 per cent industry average percentage of vessels the Coast Guard found defective. On average, more than 15,000 NKK-classified vessels visit the US annually. Mr Mano said the US Coast Guard port-state control figures gave the fairest comparison because they provided breakdown of detentions related to class and detentions unrelated to class. Other port-state authorities provided only vessel detention figures, without any breakdown. Mr Mano said the US figures were a good benchmark because they used certain criteria for determining who was responsible for deficiencies and had a definition of class. He said NKK was combatting increased competition by expanding its network and increasing surveyor numbers to provide better service to its clients. 'We are also trying to keep our detention rate as low as possible,' he said, adding the society was working to raise members' awareness of key issues in port-state control. 'I am asking all of our staff to respond to owners' requests as far as possible and will take steps to strengthen the society,' he said. Mr Mano said the society also was undertaking two forms of ISO quality certification work. The first involved the ISO 9000 quality audit system and the second the ISO 9001/9002. NKK, which has performed audits for more than 200 companies, has customers in Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Turkey and Greece. From last year, the society also had been involved in awarding 10 companies with ISO 14,000 environmental certification, Mr Mano said. One was a shipping line, Asahi Tanker, while the remainder were manufacturers. Mr Mano said ISO work accounted for only 5 per cent of the society's revenue, with the balance classification work. He said that while the society had expected demand for its classification services to fall this year, the figure had remained steady as Japan had built more vessels than expected. The society classes an average of 6,500 vessels annually. Mr Mano said the society expected the number of vessels to be classed to fall next year as the society had fewer applications for its services than at the same time last year. The society's forecast is based on the number of vessel drawing approvals.