WORLD-WIDE Shipping Agency believes the tanker industry has made radical safety improvements since the disaster involving a Greek-owned ship in August 1991. But Hong Kong-based World-Wide, the world's largest independent tanker owner, has expressed doubts over Hong Kong's ability to clamp down on sub-standard shipping. Captain Sir William Codrington, director for safety and environmental protection at World-Wide, said there was a lot of shipping in the port which the inspectors could not check for lack of resources, and in many cases the port authorities lacked the power to enforce standards. ''There are a lot of ships in the smaller ranges that are in pretty poor condition,'' Sir William said. ''And then of course, I don't think until fairly recently they've had the legal powers to detain ships.'' The Marine Department is a signatory to the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control, which obliges it to conduct spot checks on shipping as part of an international effort to clamp down on old and dangerous ships. Hong Kong inspectors visit about 10 per cent of the vessels coming into the port, in line with international standards. However, the industry is plagued by the problem of marginal operators. Large tanker owners could not bring pressure on sub-standard operators, which was the job of the regulatory authorities, Sir William said. But he said charterers should also play their part and take care what ships they chose to ship their cargo. He said the main task was to enforce existing standards, rather than introduce new legislation. For its part, World-Wide only has two ships calling at Hong Kong on a regular basis. However, its fleet of 30 tankers have undergone 57 inspections globally this year, and it expects that oil companies will conduct 90 such inspections by the end of the year. Sir William said World-Wide ships were not targeted by the Marine Department because it only had limited resources and was selective on inspections. ''They are obviously going to be looking at ships that pose more of a problem. ''What we would like to see is a slowdown in new regulations and a tightening up of what we've got. ''If you change standards too fast, nobody really knows what on earth they're supposed to be doing.''