PIRAEUS: "DNV is disappointed that the International Association of Classification Societies, IACS, was unable to take firmer action at its Council Meeting last week in response to the Erika accident," says DNV's Chief Executive Officer Helge Midttun. "Ship classification has a serious problem when the shipping market and public opinion expect firm and immediate action, yet the IACS response is to postpone the necessary decisions. We must look for ways to restore confidence in class by improving the decision-making processes of IACS and how the organisation works," he says.
Helge Midttun makes it clear that no recent single accident has harmed the standing of the classification societies more than the sinking of Erika. All classification societies have to improve their performance in order to re-establish confidence in class. Public and government reaction after the Erika accident clearly shows that the expectations of class are high, and certainly not met in this case.
"The only way confidence can be restored is by delivering quality in our services," Helge Midttun says. "Under-performance by one classification society reduces confidence in the whole classification concept, and must lead to consequences for any society which fails to deliver high quality."
DNV advocated a suspension of the Italian class society RINA until the result of the IACS audit was clear. This was not supported by a sufficient number of IACS members. Helge Midttun says that he is not impressed by what has been achieved through IACS in the six months since the loss of Erika and the resulting oil pollution.
Move to exclusive surveyors
On the other hand, he comments on some decisions by IACS that point in the right direction. Terminating the Polish Register of Shipping's status as an associate member of IACS was a necessary move."The establishment of an Accident Investigation Team and a Crisis Management Team will make IACS more able to respond relevantly and quickly when needed. The two permanent teams show a willingness to delegate more authority to the Chairman of IACS," says Midttun.
"The IACS decision to ban the use of non-exclusive surveyors on statutory surveys within a year is another step towards improved quality and more consistent surveys by all the member societies,". The decision means that an IACS member society either has to have its own global network of exclusive surveyors, or enter into agreements with other societies to provide this service.
"I expect," says Midttun, "that we will see alliances between member societies which today operate with extensive use of non-exclusive surveyors, and societies that have an infrastructure with mainly exclusive surveyors. Such alliances are necessary as a consolidation of a fragmented industry."