In the mid-1980s, a company needing to charter a tanker would often make a telephone call to Arthur McKenzie's Tanker Advisory Center, a business run out of his Manhattan apartment, or the firm might consult his “Guide to Tanker Selection,” where he would rate ships according to factors such as their age of vessels, the design, and past history of the ship and its owners and operators.
It was a small operation relying on McKenzie's years of experience at Exxon and the intelligence he gathered with such activities as clipping every casualty report that appeared in the Lloyd's List
newspaper and pasting them into files he maintained on each ship.
Thirty years later, Intertanko, the organization of tanker owners, said “vetting inspections of tankers by oil companies are proliferating in frequency, rising steadily in cost and, at an estimated $300 million a year, are well on the way to running out of control.”
Intertanko said a Ship Inspection Report (SIRE) program developed by the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) "intended that tanker inspection reports should be shared by all OCIMF members. They are not. The cost of inspections should be shared by both parties. They are not. And to make matters worse, ship operators often have to pay the costs of luxury travel for inspectors.”
Intertanko Chairman Graham Westgarth of GasLog said, “Vessel inspections by charterers are a crucial part of tanker vetting that has effectively become every tanker owner’s ticket to trade” and that “vetting plays a vital role in safety, one which our members respect and welcome.
“The highest quality owners want to distinguish themselves from those with lesser standards," he continued. "However, there are some very real concerns on the fact that the SIRE system is not being used by OCIMF members as it was intended, resulting in a multitude of unnecessary inspections: INTERTANKO’s Council expressed alarm at this trend.”
Intertanko said, “The cost of vetting has become prohibitive for tanker owners as charterers implement fragmented vetting strategies, insisting on performing their own inspections, at an average cost in the region of $5,000, using their own individual criteria instead of accessing valid, standardized inspection reports already lodged in OCIMF’s SIRE system. In addition, tanker operators are obliged to cover unreasonable extra costs" that one member said can nearly equal the cost of the inspection and which are not fully broken down.
Intertanko Managing Director Katharina Stanzel said her organization “wants to encourage charterers, including traders and brokers, to use the SIRE system in the spirit that it was created by the oil majors, and to drive down the number of inspections and associated costs. This means aiming for one inspection per ship every six months by an accredited inspector, the report of which will be used by any OCIMF member wanting to vet that ship.”