The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) agreed during MSC 100 in December 2018 to the proposal for the establishment of a fully independent international quality assessment review body - the “International Quality Assessment Review Body” (IQARB), for the review of IACS Quality System Certification Scheme (QSCS) for an initial trial phase. The MSC further requested the active participation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretariat in the work of IQARB and for its meetings to be convened at IMO, and for it to be regularly updated on any developments during the trial phase.
The inaugural meeting of IQARB, in its trial phase, was held at IMO from 28 February to 1 March 2019. The meeting was attended by Chile, Liberia, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Singapore, United States, European Council (EC), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), IUMI, Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), Intertanko, International Group of P&I Clubs, Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), Shipyards’ & Maritime Equipment Association (SEA) Europe and the IMO Observer to IACS QSCS, all of whom had been invited with a view to be the initial members of IQARB, based on the draft Protocol to be agreed. Also in attendance was the Secretary-General of IACS, the IACS Quality Secretary and the Secretariat. Additionally, to assist in the discussion, representatives from each Accredited Certification Body (ACB) and each IACS member classification society were in attendance.
With regard to the working method, the meeting considered a draft IQARB Protocol establishing the modus operandi of IQARB. The draft Protocol contains provisions setting out the intention for IQARB to be an international, independent advisory body, comprising 18 voting members including representatives of flag States, Port States (PSC authorities), intergovernmental organisations and industry representatives (insurance, shipowners and shipbuilders), IMO Secretariat, IMO Consultant/Observer to IACS QSCS and two ex-officio/non-voting members from IACS.
The purpose of IQARB is to review the certification process of the quality management systems of IACS members. This is done by considering the adequacy of IACS QSCS in meeting the objectives set before classification societies/Recognised Organizations (ROs) by regulators and industry. Compliance with the requirements of the RO Code in relation to the relevant provisions of IMO mandatory instruments is also being assessed. These requirements include SOLAS regulations and the III Code; the performance of Accredited Certification Bodies (ACBs) against the criteria of QSCS; the nature of findings; and the robustness and effectiveness of the agreed corrective actions that classification societies/ROs have put in place to address the findings identified during the ACB audits.
It is envisaged within the Protocol that as a result of the review a consolidated factual statement on the certification of the quality management systems of each IACS classification society/RO will be issued and released into the public domain. These factual statements and recommendations will be available to any third party. IQARB factual statements are meant to provide confidence in the independence and integrity of the classification society/RO's certification by the ACB.
The long-term objective of the IQARB initiative is to promote and enhance maritime safety and pollution prevention. It shall be a fully transparent and independent industry scheme that regulatory bodies, flag administrations, classification societies, shipowners/managers, insurers, etc. can understand, trust and have faith in. There was a general consensus that IQARB presents an excellent opportunity to rationalise the current multi-layered oversight of classification societies/ROs against different but closely related standards, all intended to meet the needs of a multitude of interested parties. Further, the flag states could voluntarily use the information as provided by IQARB as part of their duty in monitoring/oversight of ROs in terms of the applicable provisions of the III Code and the RO Code. Long term, a broader role for IQARB is envisaged, considering that the future IQARB could be an entity established under an international legislation framework, with its own standards for qualifying ROs, where the scope of application could be extended to all ROs at large. At the trial stage, however, the scope of application of IQARB will only include IACS members.