One of the world’s leading marine distress signal manufacturers is leading the call for stricter policing of European marine equipment safety standards.

Robert Hill, Managing Director of Chemring Marine, which manufactures the leading Pains Wessex brand, has told EU marine safety officials that product quality is not monitored closely enough and could result in substandard goods slipping through.

He says, “Industry opinion is that non-EU manufacturers are often shipping substandard product, which should be prevented from sale, but, in practice, product quality is often not monitored and the products in question are often copies of accredited EU manufacturers.

“The European Marine Safety Agency shares this frustration and will be producing a written proposal to tighten product surveillance in the marketplace, by mid-2009. Two years later, it could then become an EU Directive with powers to enforce.”

Mr Hill attended the Brussels meeting of the EU Commission/EMSA, officially entitled ‘Stakeholder Consultation on the Revision of the Marine Equipment Directive 96/98/EC’, at the invitation of the Society of Maritime Industries, and represented the opinion of various European manufacturers.

The industry perception of the effectiveness of policing Marine Equipment Directive certification and the Ship’s Wheelmark, indicating conformity and compliance with regulations, were among issues discussed.

The Commission is advocating that national authorities should possess greater powers to police and enforce effective legislation upon notified bodies.

Campaign for standardised rules on replacing out-of-date liferafts

Pains Wessex is also campaigning separately for standardised worldwide safety rules on replacing dated safety products. In some countries, including the US, signals in annually-serviced liferafts can legitimately be up to 17 months out-of-date before being replaced.

Keith Bradford, Pains Wessex’s product manager, says, “Potentially, it could be a matter of life or death if the signal does not work because it has been in service too long. Our concern is for the safety of users and that the products perform to legislated SOLAS safety standards throughout their service life.”

Some administrations allow distress signals to be left in the liferaft if they are not out-of-date at the time of the service, which could mean that they are almost 12 months out-of-date by the following service. Rafts can also be allowed an extra five months’ grace if they are not near an approved service station.