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"Class yet to position itself for 21st century": Somerville

New York: The ABS-classed fleet passed the 160m gt mark during the past quarter thanks to deliveries from a "very robust orderbook", ABS chairman and ceo Robert D. Somerville told the Annual Meeting of Members here this week. At end March the fleet stood at a record 162m gt.

A tonnage increase of 15.4m gt during 2009 was the largest ever recorded by ABS and the biggest of any of the larger class societies, Somerville said. He acknowledged there had been "a manageable number" of orders cancelled during the year but "more significantly, what we found was that many owners worked with the shipyards to defer deliveries or to substitute different ship types or sizes for those on order." New class contracts for more than 10m gt were won during the year.  

The ABS chief executive went on to tell the society's members that "the future is much on our minds at present." Referring to the changes in membership of IACS, changes related to equipment certification imposed by the European Commission and other stimuli, he said that "class, in the future, will have to evolve. It is clear to me that, for a wide variety of very understandable reasons, class has yet to position itself for the 21st century."

Acknowledging the strictures under which class operates, he suggested that "perhaps the hardest challenge will be to convince many in the maritime community to change their approach to class and accept we have a common interest in promoting safety."

Somerville went on to outline a future based on a data sharing partnership between class and the operator that has the potential to not only increase safety but also offer the operator a more efficient, less intrusive survey regime over the life of a ship. He cited as an example, the recent program worked out between class, some prominent flag States and a major container operator whereby, through sharing data, the drydock interval for selected new ships has been pushed back from a five-year to a seven-and-a-half-year cycle. "We need to move from a traditional policeman role to one where we can more effectively partner with our clients with the ultimate objective of more safely and efficiently maintaining their fleets. The more we share information, the easier it will be to achieve those goals," he said. 

Separately, Graham Westgarth of Teekay Marine Services, also chairman of Intertanko, was elected to a three-year term on the ABS Council.  [29/04/10]

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