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Classification Society Questioned about Red Sea Ferry

The European Maritime Safety Agency is questioning Rina over its certification of the "Al-Salam Boccaccio," which sank last week with a loss of almost 1,000 lives.

The ferry had undergone several conversions to boost its capacity to 1,400 passengers. It sank when a fire broke out shortly after setting sail. Rina, the Italian shipping organization that certified the ferry, said that it inspected the seaworthiness of the vessel twice last year.

The port authorities of Duba, from where the ship sailed, also said that the vessel had passed safety tests a day before it set sail. The Maritime Safety Agency is on a fact-finding mission and is not accusing Rina at this stage, but it is hoping for tighter maritime safety legislation.

Brussels is hoping that the Red Sea ferry disaster, as well as a recent potentially disastrous collision between a chemical tanker and a bulk carrier in the English Channel, will convince EU governments to consider swiftly its proposals for tighter maritime safety legislation. There is concern that several member states, in particular from the Mediterranean region, are dragging their feet about reviewing the rules.

The European Maritime Safety Agency has questioned Rina, the Italian shipping organization that certified the Egyptian ferry that sank with a loss of almost 1,000 lives last week.

The European maritime safety agency has requested details of the audits Rina carried when it certified the 36-year-old vessel. The "Al-Salam Boccaccio" had undergone several conversions to boost its capacity to 1,400 passengers and was sailing under a Panamanian flag. It sank when a fire broke out shortly after setting sail from Duba, in Saudi Arabia.

A Brussels official said: "We are not accusing Rina at this particular stage and this is about fact-finding.''

The European Commission has been concerned about the oversight of shipping classification societies, which often not only certify vessels, but also insure them.

Last November, the Commission tabled a package of draft legislation to improve maritime security, including a proposal to force maritime classification societies to set up a supervisory body operating "with a high degree of independence," as well as a proposal to introduce a more elaborate system to sanction classification societies found at fault.

The Commission's options are to demand the withdrawal or suspension of a classification society's license.

Rina has said that it inspected the seaworthiness of the Red Sea ferry twice last year. The port authorities of Duba, from where the ship sailed, also said that the vessel had passed safety tests a day before it set sail. Several survivors have claimed that there was a shortage of life-saving equipment on board.