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Maritime safety, hybrid regulatory regimes and the EU A study of regulatory change, classification societies, authority and legitimacy

Alternative title: Sjøsikkerhet, hybride regulatoriske regimer og EU En studie av regulatorisk endring, klasseselskaper, autoritet og legetimitet

Awarded: NOK 1.6 mill.

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Project Period:

2018 - 2021

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Shipping can be seen as the first globalized business activity. Particularly from the mid-eighteen's century it became an international industry creating a need for an international regulatory regime. Such a maritime safety regime evolved with Lloyd's Register (LR) from 1760 - a privately operated "classification society". Other such societies followed suit in Europe (DNV, GL and others), later also in the US, Asia and elsewhere. At core, "classification" came about in response to insurers, cargo and ship owners' need understanding and mitigating risk related to sea voyages. Through-out the years the tasks performed by classification societies have been supplemented and to some extent influenced by other actors entering the regime, such as governments as "flag states" and "port states", and by formalized roles for various trade associations representing marine insurers, ship owners and shipbuilding yards. All these actors in the international maritime safety regime interact in a complex way - in the commercial shipping market - as well as in the UN's maritime safety body IMO (International Maritime Organisation). Thus, a hybrid public-private regulatory regime gradually evolved in a historic "bottom up" process.

With the interaction between private and public regulation in the international maritime safety regime in focus this study will analyse the EU’s emergence as an actor challenging the maritime safety regulatory regime over the last 30 years, by using the EU debates, policies and actions as a prism through, which the modalities of the regime can be explicated. A striking feature of the relatively limited amount of academic work undertaken on the global maritime safety regime, is that the role of classification societies tends to be under-studied and viewed as elements separated from the regime. Furthermore, much work is based on varying degrees of functionalist top-down approaches, where the foundation and evolution of the various elements of the regime tends to be described and analysed through theoretical tools presupposing a high degree of rationality and regulatory design. The hypothesis behind this proposal, however, is that the evolution, status and likely future of the global maritime safety regime can better be understood in light of “complex interdependence” theories and analysed as bottom-up dynamic - and not always straight forward rational - processes. With this as basic analytical approach, the institutional framework surrounding class will be analysed in order to bring new knowledge on how the dynamics of this hybrid public-private regulatory regime functions. What are the weak and strong points of the regime and how could the regime and the role of classification best meet the needs of the future? Such improved understanding is particularly important at present day when new digital technologies, big data analytics and autonomous solutions are making rapid entry to the maritime world. Together with geo-political power shifts away from the traditional western maritime nations and towards new and powerful actors in Asia, these technological changes carry the potential of a total paradigm shift for the regulatory regime.