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Commission proposal for a directive on classification societies

Joint petition from the Danish Shipowners’ Association and Danish Maritime
The European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism is presently processing the Commission’s proposal for a directive on classification societies (COM(2005)0587). Luis de Grandes Pascual has pre-pared a draft report in which a series of amendments are proposed. Some of these appear to be mere clari-fications while particularly one by some is perceived as controversial.

Article 20 of the proposed directive establishes that the recognised organisations (classification societies) must consult with each other to maintain equivalence between their rules and agree on terms for mutual acceptance of approvals and certificates. The 28th amendment from the rapporteur proposes a strengthen-ing of the original proposal from the Commission so that the rules should not only be equivalent but also be harmonized at the highest level. This proposal is supported by the Danish Shipowners’ Association and Danish Maritime.

The classification societies oppose this proposal suggesting that there may be safety issues. It is difficult though to see how safety issues can arise if harmonisation takes place at the highest level. The present draft does not demand unconditional, unlimited mutual recognition but only that classification societies agree amongst themselves upon the terms upon which they can base an approval of the certificates from others. A certain, limited mutual recognition already exits at present.

An agreement on mutual recognition of certificates should also mean that a rejection of a certificate from a classification society approved by the EU must be specifically justified. The consequence of classifica-tion societies having different rules can thus be charted so that they over a period of time can be harmon-ized. In the present system it is difficult to distinguish between rules which are actually identical, rules demanding different methods in attaining the same security level, and rules which actually have different safety levels.

The new directive will make these circumstances more transparent and prompt a mutual recognition. The proposal will likely reduce the income of classification societies by abolishing controls which are virtual-ly superfluous. A harmonisation of the classification rules at highest level will be an advantage for mari-time safety and an advantage for European businesses who typically find it easier to comply with high technical demands than their competitors from third countries. Furthermore, a mutual recognition of the classification societies’ approvals will entail substantial simplification and cost reductions for producers of maritime equipment in Europe including in Denmark. Today, each producer has to uphold costs for almost identical approvals and tests for several (often up to 10) classification societies along with keeping equipment in stock which is only differentiated by the classification society which has approved it. With the proposed regulation such costs can be reduced significantly.

The Danish Shipowners’ Association and Danish Maritime will be happy to assist with further written in-formation or participate in a meeting.

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