Classification Rules have been developed over many years by each Society through extensive research and development and service experience. In addition, certain Unified Requirements have been agreed by IACS Members and transposed into the individual Members’ Rules. As outlined later, ‘statutory’ requirements are developed at IMO and where necessary, Unified Interpretations of them are adopted by IACS.
Rules and Regulations are subject to constant refinement based upon additional research or practical experience. Ultimately it is up to the international community, as expressed through their governmental representation at the IMO, to determine the acceptable level of risk associated with the conduct of marine transport. These standards may be prescriptive or goal-based. In the former case, the Class Societies may develop Unified Interpretations, under the aegis of IACS, which clarify the intent and application of the international standards. In the latter case of goal-based standards, the IMO may establish broad requirements and then leave it to the Classification Societies to develop the detailed Rules that will allow industry to meet those targets. The current focus of the IMO is a new and transparent goal-based regulatory framework for hull structures of oil tankers and bulk carriers. This represents a significant change to the current complex system of largely prescriptive statutory international and national regulations, classification rules and industry standards. The basic principle is to establish clear, demonstrable and verifiable goals to the effect that a properly built, operated and maintained ship should provide minimal risk to its cargo and crew and to the environment for a specified operational life. This goal-based approach aims at moving the regulatory framework from a culture of compliance, governed by prescriptive Rules, to a culture of benchmarking, backed by functional risk-based requirements. It is intended that those goals may be achieved by alternative designs that offer an equivalent level of safety, while promoting new technology and greater innovation within the shipping industry. Within the framework set at the IMO, it is the role of IACS Members to develop the specific Rule criteria to support the goals. It is intended that these Rules will be “common” to all IACS Societies. Existing Common Rules for hull structures of oil tankers and bulk carriers were adopted in December 2005 for implementation on 1 April 2006. This was an ambitious project and one of the most important single steps in the development of maritime Rules that IACS has been involved with.