LLOYD'S Register (LR) chairman Patrick O'Ferrall has called for a better understanding of problems of all parties involved in the shipping industry with a view to more systematically foreseeing risks and their potential consequences. In his opening address at the Ship Shape 2000 Symposium in Sydney this week, Mr O'Ferrall said safety was achieved by good design, good construction and good operation of ships and depends, above all else, upon the skills, knowledge and effective communication between officers and crew. He said in recent years the over-supply of tonnage and consequent downward pressure on freight rates had not helped to advance safety standards. ''It is important that we recognise that safety, or significant improvements in safety, cannot be attained purely by the action of individual bodies,'' Mr O'Ferrall said. ''It requires the participation of all the parties concerned, their awareness of the potential areas of concern and their willingness to communicate with each other.'' Mr O'Ferrall referred to the recent investigations into bulk-carrier losses in which it became evident there was a general lack of awareness of the potential effects of even minor structural damage in the event of a combination of circumstances such as fatigue cracking, corrosion and heavy weather. There was also an apparent lack of awareness of the consequences of loading ships' holds above their design limits, which could create accelerated fatigue damage and could result in widespread cracking which was often seen in bulk carriers. And while corrosion associated with the carriage of high-sulphur coals was a known factor, its potentially disabling effects on the ship structure in uncoated holds were not, its seems, fully appreciated. Australia had proven a strong champion of the cause of ship safety and the parliamentary report Ships of Shame had vigorously drawn attention to aspects of concern and made many recommendations for improvement, he said. Mr O'Ferrall also referred to the determined efforts at IMO and the International Association of Classification Societies to raise standards. Pointing out that initiatives in this area were not confined to regulatory bodies, he mentioned a current research project undertaken by BHP Transport on hull condition monitoring in co-operation with Japan's Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries, Lloyd'sRegister and the Australian Maritime Engineering Research Council. He said this was ''an example of co-operation between relevant parties at its best''. In this context, Mr O'Ferrall referred to a computerised ship condition database system being developed by LR. ''It will enable the condition of both the hull and machinery of individual ships to be monitored and made readily apparent to both shipowners and flag and port state authorities,'' he said. The system would also fulfil the recommendation made in the Ships of Shame report for bulk carriers visiting Australia to have a survey history file on board. He said that in the worldwide context, the need for modern technology to limit risks and the continued need to renew priorities related to marine safety and pollution prevention would not go away. The world merchant fleet was ageing and needed to be replaced and there was a continued need for research and development, he said.