Operators must have valid safety certificates before their vessels can resume service and, while some flags have allowed three- to five-month extensions, there are concerns about a backlog of equipment requiring service.
Survitec singled out the cruise and ferry segment as posing a particular challenge due to the volume of safety equipment on board that could require servicing.
Keep service providers abreast of vessel movements
Highlighting a potential bottleneck as demand for safety equipment servicing ramps up, Survitec has advised customers to keep to their original maintenance plans where possible and ensure approved service providers are kept abreast of vessel movements so that safety equipment can be booked in and certificates issued in time.
'Due to the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, classification surveyors have experienced difficulties arranging surveys and carrying out on-board activities to meet statutory requirements. As a consequence, flag states have granted extensions on many of the certificates issued so that vessels can remain compliant,' Survitec Chief Operating Officer Claude Sada said. 'They have taken a very pragmatic approach in dealing with vessels on a case-by-case basis, with three- to five-month extensions being approved.'
In accordance with SOLAS Chapter 1 Regulation 14, safety certificate extensions can be issued for life rafts, lifeboats, marine evacuation systems (MES), davits and launching appliances.
However, the first round of extensions is now coming to an end and those extensions issued in the second half of 2020 will start to expire from early 2021.
Paul Clarke, Survitec operations director – MES, expects servicing demand to peak in the first half of 2021, 'so it is imperative that shipowners keep the lines of communication open with regards to vessel movements. This will help minimize risk and avoid any potential delays.'
If certificates or extensions are due to expire or have already expired, operators need to contact an approved service provider to arrange service as soon as possible. If certificates have expired, ships will be unable to sail until they have been renewed.
Flag-state extension good for up to five months
Vessels can operate for up to five months past the expiry date if granted an extension by the flag state.
'We have made the necessary changes to our systems and procedures so that when extensions are given, the next due date is based on the anniversary of the expiry of the previous certificate. We have taken these measures to ensure companies remain compliant,' Clarke said.
Rented life rafts, lifeboats and MES exchange units which are customer owned are not affected by the extension policy.
With a number of cruise ships still away from their homeports, having returned furloughed crews to their home countries, Survitec has registered an increase in life raft exchanges in ports new to the company.
'Where we don’t have a service station, we are dispatching flying squads to those areas to facilitate shipowner requirements,' Clarke said.