Warwick Norman, the CEO at third party ship vetting organisation RightShip, has blasted the decision by Paris MoU member states to stop providing data at source to industry and publish only via parismou.org and equasis.org as “regressive”. The decision is likely to come into effect at the end of March next year.
Norman has also drawn parallels between this step back in transparency and the recent high profile InfluenceMap ‘IMO corporate capture’ report, which suggested the UN body had been swayed by shipping industry lobbyists in its approach to climate change regulations.
“Given that we are now in the midst of the digital age where transparency and access to data is ingrained in all modern safety systems, the decision to withdraw Paris MoU data – and the unintended consequences impacting fleet safety – seems baffling, illogical and regressive,” Norman told Splash today.
The Paris MoU was established in 1982, aimed at eliminating sub-standard shipping. Today it has 27 members.
“The Paris MoU was developed and shared to ensure transparency, and the consequence of any political manoeuvring that lies behind this is that it will compromise safety. The less information you have about a vessel and the eco system that runs it, the greater the risk,” Norman argued, adding that the decision was in contrast to the European Union policy to open up access to data.
Writing for Splash on Friday, Rod Johnson, a former Port State Control (PSC) officer, said the decision to restrict access from next March had come via pressure from shipowners, something RightShip’s Norman also alluded to when interviewed by Splash.
“Clearly this threatened move by Paris MoU is a regressive step in terms of transparency,” Norman said, adding that it remains vital that PSC information remains independent of political pressure from member states as well as reliable, robust and freely available.
“Unfortunately we do find some parallels between what is happening with Paris MoU PSC data and the corporate capture report relating to groups influencing the agenda at the IMO,” Norman said.
A study published last month by London-based non-profit organisation InfluenceMap claimed corporations have “unmatched” power to shape regulations at the IMO. The 38-page report suggested big business and major shipping trade groups are “actively and collectively” obstructing global climate change policy at the IMO, something the industry’s top shipowing organisations have since strenuously denied.
News on Friday that member states of the Paris MoU were looking at restricting access to data was greeted with strong criticism by Splash readers and writers.
Andrew Craig-Bennett, Splash’s lead columnist, wrote: “The Paris MoU has been, quite simply, the best thing to happen to safety at sea in my lifetime, because of the wealth of reliable data that it has provided, and continues to provide.” Craig-Bennett went on to urge the Paris MoU to reconsider, and to actually go a step further by naming those who are behind what he described as a “retrograde” move.
Captain Robert Gordon, managing director and principal lecturer at Singapore-based maritime education company SeaProf, said he was “shocked and concerned” that members of the Paris MOU “appear to be capitulating to shipowner lobbyists”.
RightShip’s Norman said plans to provide data on a vessel-by-vessel basis via Equasis or parismou.org and claiming this was transparent was “disingenuous”.
“Withdrawing this data in a format that can be used to provide insights into the vessel and the entire system that runs it means there will be reduced understanding, and therefore greater impact, on the safety of the vessel and crew,” Norman said.
The RightShip boss said the loss of the Paris MoU data would be significant, but his company would be able to institute “work-arounds” that he said would ensure the integrity of its predictive risk rating. These include some kind of technical solution, or altering its Qi algorithm to reflect the withdrawal of this PSC data.
“Neither solution is ideal, however we are in the processing of exploring our options – which as you can appreciate is a complex and time-consuming exercise,” Norman conceded. “We will be transparent about our solution once we have decided on the preferred course of action.”
Norman went on to warn that the loss of Paris MoU data could see RightShip clients, who are among the world’s largest shippers, call for an increased inspection regime.
“Vessels that consider safety as an overhead might welcome this decision, however for the vast majority this is a backwards step. For our customers and vessels that service the region, this action will result in delays and more manual reviews,” Norman said, adding: “From a RightShip perspective much will depend on our chartering customers’ risk tolerance: noting that without the Paris MOU data to act as a vessel validation, an increased inspection regime may be demanded.”
Many Port State Control inpectors from across the world have expressed their disappointment at the Paris MoU’s decision to restrict access to data.
Alan Knight, a keen Splash reader and senior marine inspector at Transport Canada, recounted the numerous ship detentions he has been involved in over the past 27 years.
“On my office wall,” Knight wrote in a comment left on this site on Friday, “I have a photograph of the crew of a truly appalling ship which I had detained. As I lifted the detention (after several weeks) the entire crew shook my hand, and one said: ‘Mr Surveyor, we did not think that we would see our families again. Thank God for Port State Control’. I have told my wife that that photo is to be placed in my coffin.”