This area, like the investigation of accidents area, is unique in that it is now the subject of another mandatory Code, the Recognised Organisations Code (RO Code). It has long been a common and accepted practice for flag states to delegate a part of their role to external organisations. At one time this was taken to mean the classification societies, but today the ROs are not all classification societies and the field is broader. However they are all equally bound by the RO Code.
SOLAS, in fact, says that all ships to which it applies should meet the rules of a classification society or the rules set by the flag state. As no flag states actually produce comprehensive technical rules on construction, design and materials, it effectively means that all SOLAS ships are classed with a classification society, and it generally means that loadlines and tonnages are assigned by that classification society. However the conduct of inspections and surveys can be delegated to another RO if the flag state wishes.
The 2018 summary of audit findings indicate that the main findings in this area are related to the administration’s oversight programme, the agreement between the flag state and the RO, and compliance with other areas of the RO code and the III Code.
The code itself says that a flag state must:
The summary reports suggest that of these essential requirements, the form of the agreement between the RO and the flag state and the flag state’s oversight programme are two areas where the auditors are regularly identifying findings.
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