Dimitrios Kostaras, Director Technology and Business Development for Eastern Region of ABS reminds us in his interview to Hellenic Shipping News about the long tradition he Classification Society has with the Hellenic maritime
ndustry, gives details about the nature of the business in Hellas and highlights the views of ABS regarding contemporary
issues in the industry, such as bunker fuel future and the new CSR (Common Structural Rules) for newbuildings.
Β Which are the exact activities of ABS in general and in Greece in particular?
ABS is one of the world's leading Classification Societies. Our primary activity is the development and verification of technical standards for the design, construction and operational maintenance of ships and offshore facilities.
We also act as a Recognized Organization for more than 100 national governments, assisting them to fulfill their maritime statutory responsibilities in conformance with the relevant international conventions such as the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention and the Marine Pollution Prevention (MARPOL) Convention among others.
To provide these services in an efficient and effective manner, ABS maintains a global network of offices spanning 60 countries including Greece. These offices are primarily focused on delivering responsive survey services to ships in service to ABS class, or to ships under construction to ABS class in shipyards across the world, particularly in the principal shipbuilding nations in Asia.
Eleven offices, including the ABS office in Piraeus, also offer engineering related services to our clients, both shipbuilders and ship Owners. These activities are primarily focused on the review of ship plans to verify their conformance with the technical standards contained in the applicable ABS Rules.
ABS has had a long standing relationship with the Greek shipowning community. Our presence in Greece has grown steadily over the years as we have responded to the unique needs of the Hellenic maritime community. For example, ABS was the first class society to establish an engineering office in Greece to provide direct service to our many Greek ship Owner clients. We also established our European Division's Eastern Region headquarters in Piraeus with operational and administrative responsibility for 16 countries from the Black Sea to the Levant and Croatia.
Most recently we have transferred our Europe Division headquarters for Safety, Environmental and Security Certification to Piraeus and have also established a dedicated training facility within our office to provide a wide range of shipping related training courses to the Hellenic maritime community.
Is there any competition and by whom?
Most Greek ship Owners are involved in international trading with many of them operating tankers and bulk carriers chartered to oil majors and leading bulk commodity producers. As a general rule, charterers and underwriters require the ships to be classed by one of the ten societies, including ABS, that comprise the membership of the International Association of Classification Societies.
All ten IACS members offer classification services to the international maritime community. Each has particular strength in specific markets "“ most prominently their own national market, and certain other areas, such as Greece which, although it has a national society, that society is not an IACS member.
In some instances a class society is also known for its expertise with specific ship types. ABS, for example, is particularly known for its services to the owners of tankers, bulk carriers, containerships and operators of units and service vessels involved in the exploration and production of energy resources from offshore locations.
Greek owners are renowned for two principal characteristics "“ their business acumen and their loyalty, when that loyalty has been earned. As a consequence Greek ship Owners have stimulated a vibrant classification sector that is constantly striving to improve the range of products and the quality and efficiencies of the services that are offered.
ABS' long history in Greece stretches back to the days immediately after World War II when the US Government provided the fleet of surplus Liberty ships to Greek owners that formed the basis of the resurgence in Greek shipowning of the last 50 years. Many of our business relationships were forged at that time and have been carried forward loyally from generation to generation.
That history, coupled with the many initiatives we have taken over the years to provide a premier service at a competitive price, has garnered a significant share of Greek classification activity for ABS. Many of the largest and most reputable of the Greek ship Owners have trusted ABS with the classification of some or all of their fleets.
Why does the company function as a not-for profit institution?
The mission of ABS reads, in part, "to serve the public interest as well as the needs of our clients by promoting the security of life, property and the natural environment?." The key words here are "to serve the public interest?" even though we have no direct contractual relationship or legal obligation with or to the general public. However, in the early part of the 20th century, the US Government determined that our activities as a class society were in the public interest and that those of our activities that are directly related to the provision of classification and statutory services render ABS a tax-exempt organization under the appropriate sections of US law applicable to not-for-profit organizations.
Who are the main clients of ABS? How many are the Greek clients?
As previously mentioned, a Classification Society's clients fall into three principal groupings: Shipbuilders, ship Owners and flag Administrations (for statutory activities). Other client groupings consist of the principal manufacturers of specified equipment such as steel, the main engines, generators, steering gear, pumps and a host of other equipment that contribute to the safe operation of a ship or offshore facility.
Within the shipowning ranks, a significant proportion of the ABS classed fleet is controlled by operators domiciled in Greece including many of the most prominent Greek ship Owners.
Β During the last months there is a lot of discussion regarding the new CSR of vessels, beginning from tankers. Soon, new rules will follow for containerships, as well as bulk carriers. Could you describe the most important changes these rules impose?
Effective 1 April 2006, all ten IACS societies jointly introduced new Common Structural Rules (CSR) for both tankers of 150m in length and greater and bulk carriers of 90m in length and greater. At the present time, no expansion of the common rule approach to other ship types, such as containerships, is being undertaken. It is unlikely that serious consideration will be given to such an expansion prior to 2011 when the planned five year period for full harmonization of the engineering approaches used for the tanker and bulk carrier rules has been completed and sufficient operational experience will have been gained to properly evaluate the merits of the common rule approach.
There are many differences between the new Common Structural Rules and the largely prescriptive rules that they replace. For example, the new CSR adopt the 25 year North Atlantic fatigue life as a defining boundary condition. Previously ABS standards were based on a 20 year North Atlantic fatigue life and many other societies used the more benign 20 year worldwide trading criteria.
The new rules also explicitly consider hull girder ultimate strength, an element that had been only indirectly considered in previous classification rulemaking. The new rules adopt a direct calculation method and include a direct criterion for ultimate strength. This entails looking at the strength of the hull girder for yielding, buckling and progressive collapse modes. The dynamic loading approach based on engineering first principles is used to apply the loads at the initial design stage.
Other significant elements of the new Rules include the direct linkage that has been established between the new construction requirements and the wastage that occurs to a ship in service. This approach is based on the net ship design criteria to which appropriate wastage allowances are then added to determine the gross scantlings to which the vessel will be built.
Do you think they address the safety issues effectively? Why do the Hellenic Ship Owners Union and other Hellenic Maritime Institutions, such as the Hellenic Registry of Shipping disagree with the new rules?
ABS and its IACS colleagues are convinced that the new CSR represent a major step forward in classification rulemaking and should result in a new generation of ship designs that are at least as robust as a comparable ship built to the most stringent of the previous prescriptive rules. The new Rules are based on sound technical and engineering principles. But they also reflect the vast store of empirical knowledge that has been accumulated by all the IACS societies over many, many years.
In particular, the net scantlings approach is based on the application of these technical and engineering principles to establish the criteria for the basic structure that satisfies the necessary strength requirements. Importantly, the corrosion margins specified in the new rules that must be added to the net scantlings to determine the gross scantlings to which the ship will be built, reflect the different rates at which different areas of the ship corrode in service since local areas may corrode at rates that can differ widely from the average corrosion rate of the whole vessel.
It must be remembered that the new Rules were not developed in isolation. Industry review was invited once the first drafts of the Rules were developed and IACS received thousands of comments from Shipbuilders, ship Owners, Designers, Academics and others. Each of these suggestions was reviewed in detail and changes were made where justified. The second draft was then also circulated to industry and further comments were received and considered before the final text and criteria were adopted.
Greek interests were very active participants in this review process and made many valuable contributions to the refinement process.
Ultimately, however, not every suggestion was adopted for various reasons, and not every party that will be subject to the new Rules was entirely happy with the result. This is perfectly understandable. But classification is, ultimately, the independent mechanism by which the international shipping industry regulates itself. IACS exercised that independence in weighing the different suggestions that were received from industry and selecting those standards which its members felt best represented the appropriate application of technical, scientific and engineering knowledge.
We assured industry that the Rules, like the individual classification societies' rules before them, are a living document to which appropriate amendments will be made on the basis of empirical experience. Mechanisms have been established within IACS to monitor the application of the rules in practice and rule changes will be developed as improvements are identified.
The other major issue broadly discussed by the global maritime community is that of the use of bunker fuel, friendlier to the environment. How crucial is that matter and to what do the shipowners have to pay attention to in that respect?
Environmental issues are having a major impact on the manner in which ships are operated. Most of these new developments are being formulated within the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) at IMO, although certain regional and national jurisdictions are also establishing local standards that may conflict with the international criteria that are being considered.
The reach of these various environmental initiatives is quite wide ranging. They include ballast water management, emissions, the treatment of oily water slops, the protective location of bunker tanks, and the issuance of "green passports' among many others.
Of particular importance is the attention that government regulators are placing on ships' emissions as a source of sulfur and nitrous oxides which contribute to global warming and smog respectively. Ship Owners are currently dealing with the introduction of MARPOL Annex VI which directly addresses this issue in addition to local requirements for ships to limit in-port emissions by "cold ironing' or connection to shore power.
Although these various issues are statutory in nature, class is deeply involved on two counts. Most obviously, we act as Recognized Organizations for many flag States so we are assuming responsibilities for conducting the necessary inspections and issuing the relevant certificates on behalf of the flag Administration.
On the other hand, many of these new regulations are requiring designers, builders and ship Owners to give considerable thought to the manner in which the ship is designed, built and equipped. For example, a ship that is expected to trade into a SOx Emission Control Area (SECA)will be expected to carry both bunker fuels and low sulphur distillate and effect a changeover from one to the other prior to entering the restricted area. This introduces questions of how the necessary fuel changeover system should be designed, including the provision of additional holding tanks, piping systems etc.
Owners are obviously looking to their class societies for assistance in interpreting these new regulations and ABS is actively working with our clients to assist them in attaining compliance in the most operationally cost effective manner.
Nikos Roussanoglou "“ Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide