S4S: What was the biggest Safety & Environmental protection improvement over the last 10 years? How did it change the industry?
M.F: As a classification society, we had big improvements and important steps in rules and regulatory developments. Certainly, the balance between safety and environment became much more important than before. We had actually an important step in the approval of the Common Structural Rules which were approved by the IACS last December. Also, we have important works going on in the safety over the container ships and a lot of issues going on in environmental parts with several regulations coming up and lot of work done by the various class societies individually and also IACS for implementation of these regulations.
S4S: Do you realize the growing momentum for investing in eco -ships? What are the relevant services and offerings you may provide?
M.F: Eco- ship has been a new venture in ship building and in the order book of new buildings. Surely the market has changed, the market is very different than what used to be just a few years back and there are a lot of things that the class society is doing in this aspect. Honestly, we have always been involved in safety but recently we have looked at the efficiency of the ships. As RINA, we have established units for the efficiency of ships and we are now able to provide services for the monitoring of energy efficiency and fuel consumption. Also, we have developed regulation which somehow confirms whether a ship is ''ECO'' or not. We have done something for which the class society is never been involved with, apart from the traditional classifications services and services relevant to the environmentally friendly for the ship. Fuel efficiency is the new frontier.
S4S: What do you think of the future fuels? What do you think it will be the preferred option for compliance in ECAs and why?
M.F: It's very nice questions which unfortunately I don't have a real answer. However, there are actually several scenarios that may come up depending on how the regulation will be implemented. For example the ECA area; the only European ECA area is now in the Baltic. In the Baltic we see that that many owners have decided to go for MGO and that's why we use either Marine Gas Oil or we will use scrubbers in the future. Other owners have decided to go with LNG. LNG is really the type of fuel which may make the difference although there are at least two issues which will affect these developments. The first one is the cost of LNG; it is cheap in US but not in Europe. LNG is not cheap compared to Heavy Fuel Oil, therefore scrubber may be a solution. The second is the development of infrastructure; in the Baltic Sea there are a lot of LNG terminals and LNG bunkering stations which are there for civil reasons not for ships. In Mediterranean we don't have that, so we need to build infrastructure which is expensive, takes time and you don't do it if you don't have a clear indication of clients (ships). So, LNG is a possibility surely, it will happen ultimately, but there are some things which may affect or may delay this development.
S4S: MLC has entered into force since last August. What is your feedback? Has MLC achieved its goal to improve seafarer's working conditions
M.F: MLC has contributed dramatically in the improvement of seafarers although, I have to say, the destination is not even all over the world. Of course, it has contributed to announce the quality of seafarer's working conditions especially in countries where this was more critical. MLC did not affect much the areas where this was ready according to IACS standards. However, we have certified many seafarers and companies according to MLC Convention and that's why I think this has been seen as a positive way from the industry.
S4S: This year, IMO WMD theme is "IMO Conventions: effective implementation"Do you think we need to improve rules or enforcement?How could we improve?
M.F: Yes perhaps we need to make a step forward on that. I have to say that there has been always a bit of separation between IMO who set the rule ultimately and the implementation. Sometimes, IMO has promoted some rules which were very difficult to be applied; above all is the Ballast Convention which is a convention with a long-lasting process of implementation and which has not been applied so far. However, I think the industry will work together to find a way of addressing the implementation. As IACS we have been involved in a working group with industry on the structure assessment of regulation development. When IMO develops regulation it should look at some things such as the impact on the regulation. As IACS we are open to be involved in this process of implementation but there is still a gap. However, I think that working together all industry, IACS, IMO, administration and all class society, this will be improved.
S4S: Despite all good efforts industry wide, recent accidents like MOL Comfort, Costa Concordia, Sewol indicate that there is more to be done. What are your views on that, what should be done for the industry to improve?
M.F: These three accidents have a very different background and it's very difficult to find a link between the three, however I'm sure there are areas in the implementation of regulations which may require from our side and from everybody's side a better understanding and a better attention. For example, if you take the last accident, the one happened in Korea of course, the proper implementation of the local regulation the domestic regulation may have failed, I'm not sure, we will wait for the investigation results before saying that, but it is a matter of local regulation which may not be adequate to the standard. For the Concordia, if you want to focus somewhere it would not be on the application of the regulation but, I would say, on the crews on board. It is of different nature, the response of the association of a crew ship due Concordia accident has been straight forward; they developed standards which have improved dramatically the application of the standards. Probably, today we need to look at the ferries as a new area of development of regulations and standards. Not only for the design of the ship but also the management of the ship.
S4S: What is the main message for Posidonia this year? How do you assess the mood of ship owners at this Posidonia?
M.F: The main message is that the shipping word is changing again but in positive way. We see a lot of enthusiasm in here in Posidonia and I think the message comes up is that there is a real belief in the future on the shipping despite the situation today. I think the ship owners have been doing very much to change the business attracting external investors. It's a different way of being a ship owner but I think this new way will bring lot new money inside the system and will contribute to the growth of the shipping community. As a class, we are able to support them and try to protect their investments. We find new ways of giving services which are tailor-made and more and more a suitable for industry's needs.
The article is an edited version of SAFETY4SEA Interview video with Michael Francioni during Posidonia 2014
More details may be found by viewing his Interview video
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