INTERNATIONAL Registries Inc (IRI) has taken measures to improve the safety of ships in Liberian and Marshall Islands registries, a London seminar has been told. The moves include annual safety inspections, reinforcing convention requirements and written contracts with class societies. IRI manages the 46-year-old Liberian registry, the world's largest, with a fleet of more than 93 million deadweight tonnes (dwt), as well as the fast-growing Pacific-based Marshall Islands registry, which was founded in 1990. ''Our inspections are over and above those required by international conventions, and we carry out about 1,500 in a year,'' Capt A. R. Goddard, head of International Registries (UK), told the Marine Surveying Standards and Opportunities seminar. ''The Liberian and Marshall Islands registries are also the only open registries to have clear and explicit written contracts with class societies for surveying and issuing statutory certificates, and we only use societies which are full members of the International Association of Classification Societies,'' he said. Capt Goddard said that IRI's basic responsibility was to police the seven international conventions with which its shipowner clients had to comply. To assist in this task, it required that not only do all ships undergo its own annual safety inspection, but that passenger ships are inspected quarterly. To implement such a major programme, it maintained a network of more than 140 nautical inspectors world-wide. ''We insist on these measures because we are determined that our registries set an example and that ships under their flags operated to the highest safety standards,'' he said. IRI also wanted to minimise costly port delays on behalf of its owners. Capt Goddard said ships could be detained if the inspection revealed defects which could compromise safety or threaten the environment. In less critical cases, owners were promptly informed of deficiencies, and rectification was tracked by computer and pursued through IRI's offices in seven key world ports and by its world-wide nautical inspector network. IRI's own inspections were an additional safety monitor, he said. They were also an overview of the surveys required by international conventions, which were carried out by the class societies, and were a check that crews and owners were maintaining vessels to required standards, he said. ''Our nautical inspectors concentrate particularly on the safe operation of ships rather than hardware,'' said Capt Goddard. ''They are better suited to the practical assessment of operational ship safety than the class society surveyor, for we deliberately recruit many who have had sea service as senior officers on ships in our registries,'' he said. Capt Goddard stressed that neither IRI's additional inspections nor its network of surveyors implied dissatisfaction with classification societies. ''On occasions, however, their surveyors find it difficult to understand the difference between boarding a ship as the representative of the classification society or that of the flag state,'' he said, adding that ''we are working closely with the classification societies to resolve this issue''.