RightShip boss suggests ‘corporate capture’ behind Paris MoU decision to restrict data access

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 and 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 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.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Let commercial third party vetting companies find out by themselves the deficiencies of inspected vessels, and not to piggyback on PSC reports.

    1. Why?

      And I mean that seriously.

      Why not let the vetting organisations have access to as much information as possible? Who gains if they do not?

      It’s easy to say “let them inspect for themselves”, but any inspection is helped by a knowledge of the ship’s history.

      No inspector ever has enough time to inspect a ship properly. We all know that the easiest items to inspect get looked at all the time. This helps nobody except ship owners and managers who are trying to undercut their competitors by cutting corners.

      So what if vetting organisations copy and paste PSC data. That is what it’s there for, surely?

      We can still expect the commercial third party vetting agencies to add to to sum of knowledge by doing their own work, but the more information they have to start with, the better.

      1. 3rd party vetting inspections will cease to exist the same day as the shippers have to pay for them. It is just an unnecessary duplication of a task already done by flag states, port states, classification societies and ship managers.

        1. Lars – it could be said that if the flag states and the classification societies had not been “captured” to varying degrees by the owner interest, in a battle that has gone on for two centuries at least , there would be no need for Port State Control. The ship managers, with respect to many friends in that business, are not regulators, and don’t belong in the same group. Vettings have come across from the tanker business into dry bulk and one must presume that people feel a need for them.

          I think we have to accept them as a fact of life.

          1. Andrew,
            Maybe charterers feel a need for them, and rather convenient when you do not need to pick up the bill for the inspections.
            It is nothing more than a commercial exercise, when the demand is high for tankers, the inspections become less strict and vice versa.
            If we really need to have an entity that is checking the integrity of the other inspection agencies, why are we not applying it on container and cruise ships?

          2. Lars,

            Container ships and cruise ships “load on the berth”, to use the old phrase; cargo owners don’t charter the whole ship, and, when container ships and cruise ships are time chartered, they are chartered, they are chartered by experts and – critically – they come under the eye of Agents who are direct employees of the charterers.

            Although I must admit that I have seen some floating disgraces – true ships of shame – owned in Western Europe and chartered by Western European container lines, escaping PSC inspectors because of the charterers’ “brand name”, the White List status of their flags and their modest ages.

            And some cruise ships that were not so special, either.

            So I suppose that I agree with you – the third party assessors work for the big movers of cargo, but I don’t think they are going to go away.

          3. Oh yes, and I remember the old criteria for fixing a VLCC to Japan:

            1. Is she Japanese built, owned and flagged?

            2 If not, is she Japanese owned and built?

            3. If not, is she Japanese built?

            4. Are we over Worldscale 100?

          4. Andrew,
            We all know that 3rd party vetting was a reaction to Exxon Valdez. An incident that was caused by a navigational human failure, and not the quality of the ship.

  2. Come on, Rightship has nothing to do with safety. It has been founded by chartering companies, only to lower the daily prices for vessels.

    And then this comment that it is shocking and concerning that members of the Paris MOU appear to capitulating to shipowner lobbyists. Shipowner lobbyists are that much worse than charterer lobbyists?

  3. I use Equasis very time I am going to inspect or join a ship. I trust it – implicitly. Restricting Equasis information makes Equasis a waste if time. This is a retrograde step and at a time when the PARADISE PAPERS will reveal more. Caveat Emptor Equasis, you could be a waste of time. Please fight agains it.

Back to top button