From SAFETY AT SEA INTERNATIONAL, February 2010
The shipping industry faces safety issues that “can only be fixed by those ‘upstream’ in the industry” – such as banks and insurers – according to Clay Maitland, managing partner of International Registries Inc, which manages the Marshall Islands Register. Speaking in a personal capacity in London to invited guests at a lunch in December, Maitland said that, although most of the industry had “found the value of quality” in recent few years, “there is still a market for the ‘bottom feeders’ in this industry”.
Maitland was picking up themes he aired in March 2009 but has now added more supporters to his campaign, dubbing his team a ‘ginger group’.
His criticisms were not only directed at small or little-known flag states and organisations, although he singled out the Mongolian register and the International Shipping Bureau for comment. He also criticised some of the better known bodies: the Panama Register, for example, includes a number of non-IACS organisations among its recognised organisations and Maitland highlighted this as a concern. He told shipowners: “By supporting a sub-standard register, you do a disservice to the industry.”
In a written paper distributed at the lunch, he said that “legitimate classification societies should not act as umbrellas or cloaks of respectability for phantom ‘administrations’ by acting as their ROs [recognised organisations].” However, his criticisms are widely spread across ‘upstream’ organisations. “We must recognise that the marine environment and the safety and well-being of ‘the ship and her people’… are the business of all stakeholders,” his paper notes.
“Charterers, lenders, brokers, underwriters, cargo interests and, of course, regulators have a duty not to look the other way; not to take the least expensive solution and not to take refuge in, as they do so often, a supposed lack of transparency.”
He singled out banks for particular criticism, citing the bankruptcy of Eastwind Maritime as an example. The company had operated more than 100 ships and Maitland said the Marshall Islands had “thrown them out” after numerous vessel detentions. In the re-registering process, banks would have been aware of these concerns “but did the banks do anything? No,” he said.
He has launched a blog (www.claymaitland.com) to spread the message and start a dialogue.
A key member of Maitland’s group is Hans Payer, a former member of Germanischer Lloyd’s executive board. Payer warned that the global financial downturn was having an adverse impact on ship safety – owners and operators were responding to declining incomes by cutting costs, delaying maintenance and repair, and reducing crew levels, he speculated.