One set of quality requirements for ships is needed worldwide, according to United States Coast Guard Rear-Admiral Jim McClelland. Admiral McClelland told the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association (HKSOA) that while the ships of two flag states were operated in accordance with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) standards as interpreted by the respective administrations, the standard of one state, either by intent or ineffective management, might be substantially below that of the other. He said ambiguities in IMO conventions and regulations might be seen as a political necessity in establishing an international consensus, but they led to varying standards being applied by different flag states in acting on the same convention. According to a Singapore seminar in March, quality shipping is defined as ships or operations in compliance with international standards, as well as related standards adopted by others. The admiral believed the base line for standards should be IMO conventions and the business of defining quality should be left with that organisation. He suggested requirements for IMO quality certification be developed in collaboration with administrations and organisations determined by the IMO secretariat as having the best performance in complying with the organisation's conventions. Such a group could be set up as an autonomous organisation responsible for the IMO quality programme. This organisation, dubbed by Admiral McClelland as the quality shipping administration (QSA), would have dual roles - to produce a set of standards that would remove ambiguities in IMO conventions and to measure compliance with those standards. Items to be certified under the programme would include crew, ships, owners, charterers, classification societies, administrations, flag states, port states and the IMO itself. Benefits of adopting IMO quality included less-rigorous attention from port-state inspectors and incentives modelled on the Green Award system, which emphasised investment in ships for the purposes of safety and environmental protection, Admiral McClelland said. HKSOA director Arthur Bowring said the association had been developing common minimum standards and a uniform interpretation of the ambiguities in IMO conventions to level the playing field and reduce substandard shipping. Admiral McClelland said the standards would be clearly stated and compliance measurable, technically reasonable and beneficial to maritime safety and environmental protection. He believed these would help eliminate ambiguities in the conventions. IMO quality would set a more rigorous level of attainment expected of industry leaders and reflect the QSA's most effective measures available for safety and environmental protection, Admiral McClelland said. He said the Coast Guard might add charterers to its port-state-control matrix, but it would exercise flexibility in doing so. 'We will continue to examine charterers with multiple detentions and we intend to publish a list for the industry to see,' he said. The admiral said although the number of port-state-control ship detentions in the US had decreased, the Coast Guard was still dissatisfied with the number of ships not complying with IMO conventions. There should be increased transparency from all partners, so that a merchant would be able to determine if the shipping lines or vessels had quality certificates, he said. Admiral McClelland added this would require a Web-based system, so that anyone could find out which ships, owners, charterers and class societies were up to standard and compare their strengths and weaknesses.