In the maritime industry the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the UN organization responsible for developing international safety and environmental protection regulations. IMO has now developed the second version of ‘Guidelines for Formal Safety Assessment (FSA) for use in the IMO rule making process’. The Guidelines are available as circulars both from the Marine Safety Committee (MSC) and the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC). This standard is, as far as the author knows, the first risk assessment standard adopted in an UN organization. The work with developing this standard was initiated in 1995 at IMO based on an UK initiative. As there have been some attempts to develop internationally accepted risk assessment and risk management standards also in other industries, this paper tries to describe some of the experience and lessons learned from developing and implementing FSA at IMO. Paralleling the development of the guidelines there has been a number of applications of the guidelines, recently focusing on bulk carrier safety. Relevant studies have been carried out by UK, by Japan, by Norway and International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and by the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS). These studies will be briefly reviewed with respect to methods used, assumptions made and conclusions drawn. The entire process from the initial terms of reference formulated by IMO to the final decisions is considered. The main conclusion is that the maritime industry has made a lot of progress, quite fast, in the use of risk assessment as part of the decision making process. This being the case, despite the many communication problems that arises in discussing risk issues in international forums. Furthermore, the FSA has helped balancing the often conflicting interest of the flag states and non-governmental organizations present in IMO. In 2004, a new initiative was taken on developing Goal Based Standards at IMO. This initiative was taken by Greece and Bahamas, and has now been debated at three meetings of MSC. The paper will also discuss the relationship between GBS and FSA based on the experience gained.

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