A measure to ensure that organizations that inspect commercial ships for the U.S. government are not also providing these services to governments that sponsor terrorism passed the Senate this week. The language is similar to legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman last year and was included in the Coast Guard reauthorization bill which passed the Senate unanimously.
Each year, non-governmental classification societies conduct more than 4,500 statutory inspections of U.S. flagged vessels to verify that these vessels meet international maritime conventions and national regulatory requirements. World-wide, more than 100 governments have established relationships with classification societies. In addition, the vast majority of commercial ships are built to and surveyed for compliance with the standards developed by classification societies.
Classification societies help set the rules of design for ships, oil platforms, and other offshore machinery. They also survey and inspect vessels to ensure they meet the international standards. Today, there are four foreign-based classification societies that have established Memorandums of Understanding with the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct these inspections on the Coast Guard's behalf.
"As the President just warned at the United Nations, time is running out for diplomacy to stop Iran's nuclear quest," said Senator Lieberman. "The United States must do everything in our power to put pressure on the Iranians to change course, including by making clear to foreign companies that they must choose between doing business with Iran or doing business with the United States."
"This legislation prohibits the U.S. from obtaining vessel inspection from organizations that also provide these services on behalf of nations such as Iran or Syria," said Senator Collins. "For the United States to maintain such relationships runs directly contrary to the spirit of United States policy.
"The bill would eliminate a loophole in the law that allows the foreign-based classification societies that represent the United States to also represent states sponsors of terrorism. Ironically, the current law provides more latitude to foreign-based societies than we allow the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS). As a U.S.-based non-profit, non-governmental organization, ABS is restricted from providing such services in Iran under existing Iranian Transaction Regulations."