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February 11, 2004

Liberia makes progress on ISPS compliance

A significant percentage of owners of Liberian-registered tonnage look to be on track to meet the fast-approaching July 1 deadline for compliance with the requirements of new international maritime security regime.

Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR), the U.S-headquartered company which manages the Liberian Registry, claims Liberia has "taken a clear industry lead" In terms of carrying out certifications and audits for the International Ship & Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.

By the first week of February 2004, LISCR had completed almost 400 of the 650-or-so security approval plans it had received from owners, as well as a significant number of the audits called for by the ISPS code.

Scott Bergeron, chief operating officer of LISCR, says, "Thanks to a lot of hard work, and lengthy discussions with company security officers, the security audit program is on course to meet the targeted implementation dates."

Last year, the Liberian Registry elected to conduct its own ship security plan approvals for the entire Liberian-flag fleet, rather than delegating the task to others. It took the unique initiative of contracting with leading international security specialists to train its own network of inspectors, based at key locations in Europe, the US and the Far East, to perform verification audits under the ISPS Code for shipowners, operators and managers.

Last year, also, LISCR opened a fully staffed maritime security department as part of its ongoing commitment to improving security in the international shipping industry. As part of that commitment, it appointed David Pascoe as Chief of Maritime Operations & Standards, with overall responsibility for maritime safety and security, and Pini Shwartz as Director of Maritime Security.

The maritime security department is dedicated to helping shipowners, operators and managers with the implementation of the ISPS Code. It is responsible for the approval of each ship's security plan and for co-ordination of the Liberian Registry's onboard verification surveys/audits as mandated by ISPS.

The Liberian Registry has also introduced the world's first seafarers' biometric identification card, which, says LISCR, exceeds in every respect the requirements of the International Labor Organization's revised convention on seafarers' identity documents, which in fact incorporates many of the initiatives pioneered by Liberia.

A six-month trial period of using the card on Liberian-flag vessels last year produced "excellent" results, according to Bergeron, who believes the Liberian ID system will become an industry standard for identifying seafarers around the world

The Liberian Registry grew significantly in terms of both numbers of ships and gross tonnage last year. In 2003, the Registry grew by more than 200 ships, and by almost 3 million gross tons, in the process taking Liberia past the 2,000-ship mark. The aggregate gross tonnage under Liberian flag now stands at nearly 57 million gt.

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