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Greek owners sound alarm on looming compliance crisis

Coronavirus outbreak could cause issues for ships en route or planning to sail to Chinese shipyards for inspections and certificate renewals

Flag states and class urged to recognise force majeure and extend validity of certificates wherever applicable

SHIPOWNERS are growing increasingly concerned about the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the industry’s ability to comply with everyday regulatory requirements.

According to the Union of Greek Shipowners, the world’s largest national shipowners’ association, the outbreak of the virus has already led to “serious problems” for ships en route or planning to sail to ports and shipyards in China or in littoral states in Southeast Asia.

The region is a major location for owners to schedule inspections for the renewal of certificates under international conventions or class rules and procedures, which usually require drydocking and repairs of their ships.

The UGS has just briefed Greece’s maritime administration on the emerging problems and requested that the national ship registry stand prepared to grant extensions where appropriate for vessels unable to undergo inspections and have certificates renewed on time.

Greek owners have also sounded the alarm with the International Association of Classification Societies, saying it is “urgent” that member societies ensure that vessels afflicted with coronavirus-related difficulties are accepted as cases of force majeure for class purposes.

As IACS’ members often act as recognised organisations for major ship registries, the UGS also urged the organisation to ensure “timely co-ordination” with flag states so that flags will extend the validity of existing certificates when required and “where applicable” accept difficulties as cases of force majeure.

Last year, according to one survey, the Greek-controlled fleet of more than 4,000 ships was registered under more than 30 different national flags, with the Greek flag slipping behind those of Liberia and the Marshall Islands in terms of Greek-owned vessels.

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