Cost versus safety?

Norwegian exhibitor Tranberg AS at SMM2006.
It would cut cost, but would it also cut safety? What impact would it have if marine equipment suppliers were to take on certification of systems and components themselves, and if the classification societies were to agree on mutual recognition of their inspections? This efficiency discussion, launched by the European Marine Equipment Council (EMEC) at the last SMM, is still going. That is also the view taken by Tor E. Svensen, Chairman of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS). The issue will be on the agenda again at the SMM 2008 – the world’s premier fair for the shipbuilding industry is the ideal forum for that.

The two sides in this debate set out their viewpoints in two separate interviews conducted for SMM organiser Hamburg Messe. Jaakko Eskola, who was elected as the new EMEC Chairman with effect from 1 April 2008, representing nearly 1,300 marine equipment suppliers in Europe, believes that cost-effectiveness and safety are not opposites. But he feels it is essential to achieve harmonisation of the certification rules of the classification societies in order to put that into practice.
Jaakko Eskola, who is also Group Vice President Ship Power of SMM exhibitor Wärtsilä Corporation, one of the leading manufacturers of marine diesels and propulsion systems, sees in the “Marine Equipment Directive” of the European Union a good example of how “harmonisation and mutual recognition can enhance safety.” He says that the Directive provides standards for certification of ship’s equipment and components, with direct relevance for safety at sea and protection of the environment.
“We believe that the current system of classification no longer meets the needs of ship owners, shipyards and equipment suppliers,” says Eskola, adding that in the long term it will also have a negative impact on the classification companies. Unlike most other industries, shipbuilding does not have harmonised standards for equipment at the present time. And that runs counter to the general efforts in the EU.

Even though EMEC and IACS are already moving together in the same direction, their positions are by no means identical. IACS Chairman Tor E. Svensen, Chief Operating Officer of DNV Maritime (Det Norske Veritas), says there is absolutely no doubt that the classification process needs to be made more efficient, to reduce costs for marine equipment manufacturers. “That is not limited to technical requirements – it also has to include the related processes. But there is one essential rule: it is never acceptable to compromise the safety of ships, whatever the reason.” He also declares that mutual recognition of certification by the classification societies is problematic. After all, a classification society bears responsibility for the overall safety and operating reliability of the whole of the ship. That requires in-depth knowledge of all parts of the complex system of a ship. “I am convinced that this responsibility cannot be split among different certification companies,” explains Svensen. He emphasises that the devil is often in the detail; for example, if the wrong material is chosen, even very simple parts of the equipment may pose a threat to system safety.
Marine equipment manufacturers likewise aim to improve safety standards for marine systems and components, as EMEC Chairman Jaakko Eskola confirms. At the same time he is confident that, as harmonisation of regulations moves forward, it will be followed by mutual recognition of certification. “If certifications are based on the same standards,” says Eskola, “we see no reason why the classification societies should not trust one another.”