H. Hänninen, Organization and management, AALTO UNIVERSITY, SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS, Helsinki, Finland


The paper explores the safety implications of using the classification society rules in shipping as a collective memory archive for the whole industry. In shipping developing safety has been a long process. Failures and close calls at sea are not efficiently monitored and analyzed, and technologies for controlling them have not been incorporated into daily routines as in airline traffic. Therefore, what is learned from anomalies in shipping remains often localized thus slowing regulatory development. The classification societies set rules for shipbuilding and inspect ships so that they can be insured. The inbuilt safety margins in shipbuilding are taken straightly from these rules, which are updated after serious accidents. The accumulated knowledge has been memorized in the classification rules. The rules were not intended to form such memory archive, but over time they have been established as that. The workings of the classification system are problematic, however, because the rules by various societies have varied a lot and because by agreement the societies cannot reveal observations about failures and close calls that have occurred to ships they inspect. The dubious role of the classification societies both as a regulatory agency and as a customer for shipbuilders and shipowners prevents learning and open dialogue within the industry. Safety margins are not widely discussed between central actor groups.

Previous literature on technological failures and risk regulation has focused on the importance of recognizing close calls and learning from them. It has been studied how such anomalies have been monitored, analyzed and what type of techniques have been developed for controlling them. More, it has been explored how the safety margins are negotiated and deviance may be normalized. The memory aspect of occurred failures, close calls and the related risk decisions has been studied less. The paper targets this cap in literature by creating understanding of the safety implications of using regulatory rules as the whole industry’s collective memory. The analyzed material consists of public investigation reports, regulatory books and documents, and books on shipbuilding. Oil tanker and ro-ro ferry technologies are used as empirical examples.

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