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Mutual recognition of marine certificates to cut €1bn costs

THE European Commission is working on the assumption that mutual recognition of marine equipment certificates will reduce costs by €1bn ($1.3bn), largely at the expense of the classification society industry. The figure is in line with estimates by the European Marine Equipment Council but higher than those of the International Association of Classification Societies, which says its members’ income from certifying maritime materials and equipment is around €250m a year. “The figure we have is €1bn. There will be less business for class but less cost for industry,” said a commission official at an off-the-record briefing. The commission has not undertaken its own impact study on mutual recognition, part of a newly approved Brussels law on classification societies. No independent studies are thought to exist.
IACS, when making its €250m estimate in 2006, said it did not include revenue from Asian manufacturers or interchangeable “wheelmark” products. EMEC’s €1bn figure included “total cost of prototype testing, test preparations, documentation, testing procedures, not just the certification fee charged by the class societies”, IACS said.
The size of the market has taken on added importance since the approval of two class laws (one directive, one regulation) by the European parliament last week. The EU’s recognised organisations, comprising IACS members and two non-member societies, now have five years to recognise each other’s certificates. “We are leaving this process in the hands of class, though there will be some monitoring from the European Maritime Safety Agency,” the commission official said. IACS lobbied unsuccessfully against the law, claiming it would dilute maritime safety. The commission rejected this argument, saying standards will have to be harmonised upwards to the highest existing level. The IACS stance has changed since the measure became inevitable. Association sources now talk down mutual recognition, saying simply that it will “involve a lot of hard work.” “We are aware of the fact that it is not an easy job,” said EMEC chairman William Van Gulpen. “But we should be able to do it if the two parts, classification organisations and the equipment industry, are willing to co-operate.” He added: “But if we think they are just gaining time we will go to the commission.” Certain societies, notably France’s Bureau Veritas, had “defensive” attitudes and had said they would not co-operate until a separate Brussels cartel investigation into the classification industry was complete, Mr Van Gulpen said. Bureau Veritas was one of the law’s more outspoken critics. EMEC says that under today’s rules the same equipment must in some cases be certified up to ten separate times when installed on different ships.

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