Many news during the Swedish Transport Agency seminar

Sweden top of the class within Paris MoU, the Swedish Transport Agency wants to scrap the crew decisions, hard to classify unprotected coastal areas as inland waterways and Swedish Accident Investigation Authority calls for more research. That's just some samples of everything that were presented during the Swedish Transport Agency's shipping seminar.

Patrik Jönsson, the Swedish Transport Agency

During two days, three programme blocks and sixteen different presentations, the Swedish Transport Agency informed the maritime industry of its activities and the issues they are currently working on. The seminar was aimed at ship owners, shipping companies, organizations and other actors in the maritime industry.

Sweden top of the class
One of the program items dealt with port state controls where Sweden tops the Paris MOU white list in 2015. Paris MoU was founded in 1982 and is an agreement between 27 countries, mainly in Europe, on ship inspections. And out of the 121 Swedish vessels that were inspected last year, none was detained.

One issue that emerged during the first day of the seminar was the implementation of tonnage tax. The goal is that tonnage tax will be pushed through the Swedish Parliament by June 20 but right now the proposal awaits a green light from EU. Only when the EU gives green light to a Swedish tonnage tax system, a bill will be sent to parliament for approval.

High waves a concern for inland waterways
The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute has conducted a study on wave movements on behalf of the Swedish Transport Agency. The conclusions from that study is that large parts of the Swedish archipelago can be classified as inland waterways, but at the same time, unprotected parts of the coast won’t meet the requirements for inland waterways due to big waves.
A clear problem area that was mentioned is Landsort which you won’t be able to sail around without leaving the border for the inland waterway. The Swedish Transport Agency will now work out proposals on zone boundaries, and the hope of the shipowners is that it should be allowed to sail around Landsort weather permitting.

Transport Agency wants to end with the crew decision making
There are major changes going on within the national shipping regulations. In the government commission on staffing and jurisdiction, RUBB, the Swedish Transport Agency wants to put more responsibility in the hands of shipowners.
The Swedish Transport Agency's aim is not to set more requirements than necessary and it is expected to, among other things, lower the requirements for internship at sea substantially. Instead, the individual owner gets greater control of the internship.

In the same spirit, the Swedish Transport Agency wants the shipowners themselves to be able to make their own staffing plans. Instead of the Transport Agency, which today make crew decisions, shipowners should, on the basis of individual risk assessments, make their own staffing plans. The owners do multiple staffing plans based on different conditions and scenarios, such as weather conditions, which are then submitted to the Transportation Board. The project RUBB shall finally be presented in October 2017.

New national regulations soon out for consideration
The project about national regulations, PNF, aims to create a simpler regulatory framework and will soon be sent out for consideration.

The regulations are function-based, which will provide more space for different kinds of solutions to comply with the rules. With the rules, there are general, but not mandatory advice and support and references to other regulations and standards. For example, a functional regulation is that all on board a ship should have access to floating equipment and the general advice is to use life jackets. But a life jacket is not mandatory if the shipowner can show a different solution that provides the same kind of security.

The national rules open up a larger arena for research on new technologies and innovative solutions. If new products are developed which meets the requirement of the function-based regulations, the way to market would be shorter.

Shipowners must make its own inspections
The Swedish Transport Agency also wants to create a new regulatory system for inspections that is largely based on self-control. Supervision divided into four different parts, verification / first-time control, continuous self-checks, inspections and periodic regulatory supervision.

Inspections applies to vessels that are 15 meters long or carry more than 12 passengers, and thus must be certified by the Transport Agency. The shipowner is responsible for the continuous self-checks and reports the results to the Agency annually, whereas periodic inspections of the bottom and the hull, fixed fire extinguishing and gas installations must be performed by authorized inspectors. By allowing owners to do their own controls the Transport Agency wants regulatory supervision to be more risk-based.

After the summer, the national regulations go out for external consideration and the goal is that they will become effective for passenger ships in January 2018 and a year later for ships without passengers.

The Swedish Accident Investigation Authority calls for more research
If commercial shipping is involved in an accident or incident, the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority has the responsibility to investigate the incident. At the Agency's web site there are about 25 reports of accidents in shipping during the last two years. And the agency has identified several factors behind the accidents, Factors that in several cases make the accident worse than necessary.

For example, there is no requirement that seamen should be able to swim, while professions such as flight attendants have this requirement. Many seamen on smaller vessels do not use life jackets, accidents occur due to lack of lookout or lack of sleep. New technology can make even experienced seamen to make mistakes and in several cases it is older seamen around retirement age who are involved in accidents.
Richard Sahl from the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority calls for more research into accidents and incidents and believes that there are many questions that need answers.

A few numbers from the seminar:

  • 5558 deficiencies in fire safety were discovered in port state controls 2015.
  • 10 years is the commitment period for shipowners who want the tonnage tax.
  • 3 amendments soon expected from EU, REFIT, about passenger safety.
  • 15 000 people in Sweden must have new blue certificates according to STCW Manila not later than 1 January 2017.
  • 20 questions are all that should be answered in the Transport Agency's new incident form.

Text: Andreas Kron