Classification societies have played an integral role in the development of safety in shipping and maritime commerce over the past 150 to 250 years (Evangelista et al. 2013; Watson et al. 2010). How a classification society is structured and functions can provide valuable lessons and examples of an organization working collaboratively with, yet independently of, the industry it regulates.
The internationally recognized classification societies are the 13 members of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), which collectively class more than 90 percent of all commercial tonnage in international trade.1 IACS, a nongovernmental observer at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), is the voice for its member classification societies at IMO. Classification societies are nongovernmental and are generally organized as nonprofits that operate worldwide. They are funded by the fees they collect in performing classification services. Classification societies establish and apply technical standards, also known as class rules, for the design, construction, and survey of marine-related facilities, including ships and offshore structures. The rules are issued and published by the classification society. A vessel that has been designed and built to the appropriate rules of a classification society may apply for a certificate of classification from that society. The society issues the certificate
1IACS members are as follows: American Bureau of Shipping, Bureau Veritas, China Classification Society, Croatian Register of Shipping, Det Norske Veritas, Germanischer Lloyd, Indian Register of Shipping, Korean Register of Shipping, Lloyd’s Register, Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, Polish Register of Shipping, RINA, and Russian Maritime Register of Shipping. See http://iacs.org.uk/Explained/members.aspx. Accessed September 25, 2013.
on satisfactory compliance with society rules and the completion of the relevant surveys (IACS 2011).
Class rules are developed to assess the structural strength and integrity of the hull structure and the reliability and the function of the propulsion, steering, electrical, and mechanical systems. Class rules are developed and updated by technical committees consisting of eminent industry representatives from around the world who are experts in their field. The classification process consists of the following:
• Technical review of design drawings and related documents by class engineers to verify compliance with applicable class rules;
• Attendance at the shipyard by class surveyors during construction of the vessel or offshore structure and at relevant production facilities of key components to verify that the construction and products are in accordance with class rules;
• Issuance of a classification certificate when the preceding steps have been satisfactorily completed; and
• Once a vessel or offshore structure is in service, the performance by class surveyors of periodic surveys on board to verify that it is maintained to the applicable class rules over the lifetime that the vessel or structure remains in class.
Classification societies maintain an extensive database of damage and failure data from surveys performed on their classed vessels in service, which serves as a basis for developing and updating class rules. They also maintain an in-house research and development staff to conduct studies on maritime-related topics in support of class rules that exist or are under development. Classification societies have their own in-house training centers, where engineers and surveyors undergo regular training and certification to maintain their knowledge of the latest rules and regulations as well as state-of-the-art technology developments.
Although classification societies are nongovernmental organizations, flag state administrations—such as the U.S. Coast Guard; Transport Canada; the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency; and those of Panama, Liberia, and others— under whose laws the vessel or structure is registered will delegate the inspection and survey of the vessel or structure to classification societies.
In summary, classification societies have long been viewed as independent and trusted agents by the industry they serve, including government regulatory agencies. Classification societies have no conflict of interest with the parties that they serve, such as builders, operators, charterers, marine underwriters, and financial institutions. The technical development of the classification rules is done in a transparent fashion with industry input. Classification certifies adherence to the class rules over the service life of a vessel or offshore structure.
Some lessons learned from classification societies have applications to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement or the Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI) in enhancing safety in offshore drilling and production, including best available and safest technologies (BAST). One example is the life-cycle
process of classification (i.e., design evaluation, construction, and in-service evaluation and monitoring throughout service life), which is applicable to critical equipment such as blowout preventers and other equipment or systems related to BAST. Another example is the development and maintenance of a worldwide incident or failure database or safety reporting system. Such a system for BAST could capture data that provide a basis for technology improvements and development, BAST performance evaluation, safety and reliability analysis, and standards improvement and development, among others. Such a database is useful for compiling data not only from the outer continental shelf (OCS) but also from other areas of offshore drilling and exploration (e.g., offshore Brazil, Africa, Norway, the United Kingdom). One of the specified tasks for OESI is to “develop and maintain a domestic and international equipment failure reporting system and database of critical OCS equipment failures related to control of the well” (BSEE and BOEM 2013, 4).
SINTEF (Stiftelsen for Industriell og Teknisk Forskning) was established in 1950 as a private, nonprofit research group. It is organized in the form of a foundation with a number of subsidiary companies. SINTEF operates in partnership with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim and collaborates closely with the University of Oslo and other national and international research institutions. SINTEF also receives funding from the Research Council of Norway,2 which defines and invests in short- and long-term strategic research topics for the nation. NTNU personnel work on SINTEF projects, while many SINTEF staff members teach at NTNU. The partnership involves the extensive joint use of laboratories and equipment, with many of the staff employed by both NTNU and SINTEF. SINTEF conducts technological and industrially oriented research to meet the need for research and development in the public and private sectors. It is organized into eight research institutes, among them the Petroleum Research Institute and the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute (MARINTEK). MARINTEK is a supplier of research and development services for industry and the public sector in the field of marine technology for companies in the shipping, marine equipment, ocean energy, and offshore oil and gas industries. MARINTEK’s facilities include several laboratories. Among them are the Ship Model Tank for hydrodynamic performance investigations of ships in waves; the Ocean Basin Laboratory for testing and verification of marine and offshore structures in various ocean and wind environments; and the Energy–Machinery Laboratory for testing of experimental equipment, instrumentation, and data acquisition systems. MARINTEK works extensively with national and international oil companies, equipment
2http://www.forskningsradet.no/en/Home_page/1177315753906. Accessed September 25, 2013.
suppliers, and engineering companies worldwide on projects related to oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, West Africa, the North Sea, Southeast Asia, and Australia.3
Lessons from SINTEF are applicable to OESI. For example, SINTEF’s proximity to a university environment (i.e., NTNU) ensures the availability of personnel with a strong scientific background for research projects. Many retired NTNU professors are also employed by SINTEF. Proximity to a university allows joint use of university laboratories and equipment and access to university research and faculty personnel, including retirees. Opportunities arise for a broad network of knowledge and research through international cooperation and collaboration with industry and other research organizations. For example, SINTEF Petroleum Research helped in the development of an advanced threedimensional oil drilling simulator for a major oil company. Its purpose is to improve the safety and efficiency of drilling operations. The development efforts were carried out in collaboration with several other Norwegian companies.4 In view of SINTEF’s approach, OESI would focus not only on technology developments and research for the OCS but also on such activities in other offshore environments. Working with university research and faculty personnel can also foster international cooperation, given the nature of their own international network and their cooperation with peers.
|BOEM||Bureau of Ocean Energy Management|
|BSEE||Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement|
|IACS||International Association of Classification Societies|
BSEE and BOEM. 2013. Operation and Maintenance of the Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI). Program Announcement No. E13AS00001. U.S. Department of the Interior, May 14.
Evangelista, J., S. Wade, C. Swaim, and J. Rife. 2013. The History of the American Bureau of Shipping, 150th Anniversary. American Bureau of Shipping, Houston, Tex.
IACS. 2011. Classification Societies—What, Why and How? June. http://iacs.org.uk/document/public/explained/Class_WhatWhy&How.pdf. Accessed September 25, 2013.
Watson, N., B. Jones, and L. Bloomfield. 2010. Lloyd’s Register: 250 Years of Service. Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, London.