Despite all the maritime regulations, the Costa Concordia still capsized and 32 people lost their lives. This accident happened in 2012. A quick overview about the history of maritime regulations, which created the feeling that this ship was build like a Titanic. Unsinkable, but unfortunately source for debate and new maritime regulations.
In the 1760 an register was started in London. In the register which was maintained in Edward Lloyd’s cafe, ships were rated. The rating was done by independent captains, who visually checked the sailing vessels. Main purpose was a check to see if the ship is in a good condition. This to reduce the risk of merchants and underwriters. This was the beginning of the first class society named Lloyd’s Register.
Later other societies started as competitors. Nowadays a ship should be build and maintained under the supervision of a class society as written in SOLAS (Safe our Lives at Sea). The role of the classociety is also changed overtime. As they started to work for the underwriters, nowadays not the underwriter but the owner of the ship is the client of the class society.
Although the class society had the rules about how to build a ship and maintain the ship, not much attention was given to the survival of the life at sea if a disaster at sea should happen. The Titanic disaster in 1912 spawned the first SOLAS convention.
start of IMO
In 1948 an international conference in Geneva of the United Nations established IMO ( International Maritime Organization ). During the years after, more and more countries (flag states) became a member of the IMO. The IMO looks after the ratification of the different conventions by each member. To legalize a convention the convention needs a certain amount of members to ratify it. The member itself has to adopt the convention into their own laws before it can legalize the ratification of the convention.
To repeat an important message. Before and after the establishment of the IMO, the flag state of the ship is the highest authority on that ship. The flag state have the authority not to ratify some or all conventions. For the ship there is no problem if it only sails between ports of that flag state. As soon as you enter a port of another flag state, the officers of the port state can stop the vessel on ground of one of the conventions or on the environmental regulations of that port.
Ratification of each Member
Let’s say you sail on a ship with the flag of Brunei. So where can you find which conventions did Brunei ratified? This is simple and open to everybody. Just go to the IMO site and follow their main business. (click:”about IMO”, “conventions”, ” status of conventions” ) or just download here the excel sheet. On the excel sheet you will find all the flag states and all the conventions. So the ratification of every member is in this excel sheet.
The governmental web page of the flag state should be checked also. On this web page you will find the interpretation of the conventions by that particular flag state.
In the of the IACS (International Association of Classification Societies) you can find the Unified Interpretations by the IACS members. These Interpretations are also used by IMO. The IACS have approximate 10 members and are open for all classification societies. The members belong to the largest societies like DNV-GL, Lloyds Register, Bureau Veritas, ABS, CCS, RINA, ABS and more( in the footer you can find them all with a quick link to their web sites). Most of the time this will cover most issues of the conventions.
To make it clear, the regulations of a flag can be much stricter than what is written in a convention. A flag can decide not to ratify a convention for just one or two issues.
New maritime Regulations
Disasters are the trigger to spawn new regulations, like the Titanic spawned the first Solas convention. Most of the regulations have their origin in two kind of disasters:
- Death of passengers from a passenger ship
- Large oil spill by a tanker
The cause of these two disasters can be catergorized in the following four groups:
- Collision (with other ships, icebergs, rocks and islands) (TiTanic and Costa Concordia)
- Fire on board ( can cause an explosion of the cargo, or just a melt down of the metal – Halifax explosion in 1917- two ships collided after the SS Mont Blanc caught fire, which reaches the wartime explosive within 20 minutes. (The explosion destroyed part of the city )
- Hurricanes and storms which appears suddenly (no preparation on the ship to encounter this) Example is Erika (1999). A 24 year old oil tanker who braked down in the gulf of Biscay. This is one of the reasons of the enhanced surveys on tankers. Main purpose of this survey is the thickness measurements of almost the complete vessel and close-up survey to detect corrosion. The regulation about the coating of the ballast tanks has its origin also in this kind of disasters.
- Now there is a new category in 2013 a container ship of 5 years only breaks into two parts due to ???
Other famous accidents which leads to new regulations are:
Herald of Free Enterprise (1987) / Estonia (1994) : both roll on type and capsized within a few few minutes due to free water surface (open or leaking bow-door)
Amoco Cadiz (1978) near aground France and Exon Valdez (1989), hit a reef near Alaska which leads directly to the MARPOL conventions
Bombing of Limburg (2002) (tanker bombed which leads to ISPS)