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What Does “Approval” Mean

Many technical specifications for ship repair and construction require that the shipyard submit to the ship owner reports, equipment selection choices, or drawings showing proposed installations, for which the shipyard is to receive the owner’s approval before proceeding. The owner’s approval is usually construed to mean that the shipyard can proceed as suggested by the shipyard. However, there are other ‘approvals’ involved in the ship repair or construction processes, usually from classification and/or regulatory authorities, as well as possibly from technical specialists. When ’approval’ is used for multiple purposes, there may be confusion as to what it means. At the end of this article, a recommendation is made; but first, here is some discussion about the use of ‘approval.’

When a regulatory authority approves a drawing, or equipment installation, it means only that there is no immediately apparent inconsistency with the applicable regulations. It is not a guarantee of safety or seaworthiness. Further, it is not a guarantee that a regulatory violation or inconsistency will not be found later upon closer review. Regulatory approvals do not substitute for approvals by any other party, and certainly not a contractually required approval from a ship owner.

When a drawing receives approval from classification, it is a representation that the contents and depictions communicated by the drawing reasonably comply with classification’s own interpretation of its own rules. Subject to further review by classification’s on-site surveyor, the incorporation into the vessel of the features conveyed by the drawing will be acceptable for issuance of a certificate of classification. When equipment selection or workmanship is approved by classification, it has the same significance stemming solely from classification’s own perspectives. Certainly these classification approvals do not carry or even imply approval by the ship owner, although obtaining classification approvals is a necessary part of the shipyard’s workscope.

When a coatings manufacturer’s technical representative approves the conditions for application of coatings, the approval serves only to activate the warranty given by the coating manufacturer. The same is true of technical representatives of equipment manufacturers: their approval of installation means only that the manufacturer’s warranty is activated—the equipment has been installed in a proper manner.

But a ship owner’s role in ship construction, conversion or repair is not as narrowly focused as are the roles of regulators, classification or manufacturer’s representatives. Typically, through the contract, the ship owner has required the contractor (shipyard) to obtain the approvals of representative of certain other organizations as previously described. Inasmuch as the ship owner is the party that has required the shipyard to obtain those approvals, a perception may have been created that a ship owner’s approval of a particular item is superior to, or in place of, the approval of one of the other organizations, such as classification, regulatory or manufacturers’ technical representatives.

Approvals of the Owner Do Not Substitute for Other Approvals Required by the Contract

That is, the approval of anything by a ship owner could easily (though improperly) be construed to mean that the owner considers the approval of the item to be in place of, or superior to, approvals by any other organization. It could be (and unfortunately has been) interpreted to substitute for approvals by other organizations. This is not the intent of owner’s approvals. The owner does not intend that its approvals are a substitute for any other approvals required by the contract.

Overall, then, it is realized that approvals are being obtained from the representatives of organizations that did not sign the contract with the shipyard, but whose approvals are a necessary part of the contract workscope. Thus, to avoid misunderstandings, the word approval should be associated only with those secondary organizations.

In order to avoid having any party improperly construe a ship owner’s approval to be in place of another organization’s approval, an alternate word is suggested: acceptance. That is, when (for example) the shipyard has to select an item of equipment, the specifications could state that it has to be ‘accepted’ by the ship owner. Similar word substitution of ‘acceptance’ for ‘approval’ could be made throughout the contract documents and specifications whenever it is originating with the ship owner. This word substitution eliminates the inadvertent substitution of actions by a ship owner for the actions of a secondary organization.

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