USCG, EU Team Up on Class Society Oversight

Rear Adm. Richard Timme, USCG Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, and Magdalena Kopczynska, Director Waterborne, European Commission

Published Mar 3, 2020 8:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a signing ceremony held Friday at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Coast Guard and the European Commission signed a cooperation agreement for the oversight of class societies that are recognized by both sides

The memorandum provides a framework for sharing and coordinating information, activities and best practices for oversight of recognized organizations (ROs) - class societies - that carry out inspection and certification of commercial vessels on behalf of both the United States and the EU. This group includes ABS, Lloyd's Register, DNV GL, Bureau Veritas, RINA, Class NK and IR Class. 

According to the Coast Guard, sharing information improves the ability of EU and American maritime agencies to measure and verify class society performance, boosting transparency and safety. It also relieves the regulatory burden on class societies by potentially reducing the need for duplicate oversight requirements. 

The IMO encourages cooperative agreements between member states to facilitate class society oversight. The Coast Guard and Transport Canada signed a similar memo in 2016. This most recent agreement with the European Commission could serve as a model for future agreements with additional member states, the Coast Guard said. 

In the wake of the sinking of the con/ro El Faro in 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard tightened its oversight of classification and the operation of USCG Alternate Compliance Program (ACP), which allows class to perform some of the agency's own regulatory inspections. Based on recommendations from the El Faro disaster, the Coast Guard created a working group specifically tasked with monitoring class society performance - the Third Party Oversight Review Team (T-PORT).