The acceptance of Indian Register of Shipping (IRS), a non-government organization, as a full fledged member of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) Council at the meeting held in Hamburg last week will put an end to the dual classification model which Indian shipping companies have been abiding by since the formation of IRS in 1975.
It has been a long wait for IRS now that it has become the 11 member of IACS. It had been pursuing IACS membership since 1991 but had to contend with merely being associate member. The associate membership category was abandoned in October last when IACS introduced a single class of membership following an investigation into its practices by the European Commission after complaints of uncompetitive behavior.
Today, 95 per cent of Indian ships are classed by IRS. Because IRS did not have full membership, Indian vessels were also being classed by one of the IACS member. A spokesman of the Indian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA) stated, “We were instrumental in setting up IRS in 1975 and we continued to support IRS all along even though they had not been able to provide the required level of service not having the extensive office network like all the other Class societies. Getting IACS full membership will strengthen IRS and help it to grow.”
An IRS official on condition of anonymity stated, “It has never been mandatory for Indian ship owners to get their ships classed by IRS. It was entirely their prerogative. However, being classed by two different societies did not entail any additional burden on the ship owners because we charge for the service rendered by way of survey, etc. Having acquired recognition status we will be able to expand our business rapidly to other countries now that we have international standing. IRS has seven overseas offices, including the one recently opened in the US.”
A spokesman of Mercator Lines Limited said, “Indian ship owners preferred getting their ships classed by IRS also as we want to support our own country’s classification society. Hence, most Indian ships have a dual class viz with IRS and one other foreign society. Now this dual class will not be necessary when one can undertake all the necessary service required with one classification society.”