Before the Swedish Maritime Administration can approve re-flagging, the work environment onboard must be checked. The ship has already been approved by another administration, but to sail under the blue and yellow flag of Sweden it must fulfil Swedish demands, which in many cases are stricter than other countries’ rules and regulations.
Tomas Åström works with inspections for flagging and newly built ships at the Swedish Maritime Administration. He says that in general there is a relatively good work environment standard on foreign ships.
– Swedish shipping companies often re-flag their own ships that have previously sailed under a foreign flag, and the work environment is usually rather good on these ships. But if the ships come from countries outside Europe the situation is a little worse in many cases.
One piece of design that the authority often comes down on is ladders. Sometimes they are too steep. Sometimes the width of the rungs or the distance between rungs does not comply with Swedish standards. At the same time this type of deficiency is almost impossible to rectify.
– We cannot demand that they wave a magic wand and change the angle of ladders, widen gangways or increase the height of ceilings. In cases such as this it may be possible to allow dispensation, says Mikael H Andersson, work environment official at the Swedish Maritime Administration. Even newly built ships may have deficiencies in the work environment, but the authority is stricter in its inspections for new ships and the chances of obtaining dispensation are far smaller.
– If a company is building a new ship it should be able to get everything right from the start. We receive drawings one year before construction starts and we can discover and point out any shortcomings in good time, says Tomas Åström.
He explains that there is quite a large difference in the quality of the work environment, depending on where the ship is built. Europe, for example, is ahead of Asia in this respect.
– Shipyards that do not come up to our standards are not happy when they have to adapt their production for our sake. But in reality it is the shipping company that is the decisive factor since it places the order and puts demands on the shipyard.