System in English vs. having it in local language



Our company is involved in international maritime transportation. Is there a rule to have the system in english versus having it in local language. I mean, we have pro's and con's for each of them. Our clients being "international" we find it useful to have the system in english, but our employees though are not english, although they know the language. And besides this, with the auditors,I guess it would be more than a matter of interpretation of the standard, but also of the translation ... A person from the transportation authority adviced us to have the system in english, but this means that the forms and reports should be so too, although they have to be filled by non-english persons.

Please let me know your thoughts.
My best regards,


Fully vaccinated are you?
I do not know of any ISO requirement that your systems be in english or any other language. Issues include 1) Can people who need documentation read it and 2) are there auditors who can read the documentation to audit it.

I would ask the person who told you to have documentation in english where the requirement is s/he is reading from.

[This message has been edited by Marc Smith (edited 16 January 2001).]


He didn't say that it is compulsory to make it in english, but he adviced me so because our bussines and customers are in various countries. So you recommend me to make the system in romanian. We had a meeting and we decided that we'll make the policies and the manual also in both languages, but the procedures and the rest in romanian. I am not sure yet if the system for the ISM authorisation, required for the vessels in necessary to be in english.


Fully vaccinated are you?
> We had a meeting and we decided that we'll make the policies and the manual
> also in both languages, but the procedures and the rest in romanian.

Sounds good to me for the ISO part. I can't comment on the maritime element - I have no background to speak to that.

Al Dyer

Also, my concern would also be what method would be used to verify the translation to an auditor and more importantly the people using the documents???



For formats and records, it may be advisable to have them printed in both languages - the normal font side and the translation in parenthesis and small fonts - This can be helpful if a specific form has to be used and understood say, by an employee and a customer , supplier or authority who does not understand romanian.


Gus Gutierrez

Ron Byrge

One of the requirements from the RAB, and I believe the IRCA as well, is that any Registration Auditor be fluent in the language used by the copmany being audited. I'd say the need for translated docs would be limited to those needed for customers who are unable to transact business in the lanuguage used by the company.

James Gutherson

Hello Paula. I work for the Commercial Vessels Branch of the Waterways Authority of New South Wales in Australia. We are responsible for the Survey of Commercial Vessels operating in our State. While we do not apply ISM requirements I have looked at them is an option for the future.
There is no requirement for the ISM System to be in English. The only requirement is that the people using the System be able to understand it. The Auditors are required to be fluent in the language used.
I would say that your idea of producing the policies and manual in both languages (because of the international nature of Shipping) and the forms etc in Romanian is good. The only problem I can see is if new employees are bought on board (temporary or replacement crew for example) who aren't fluent in Romainian. Much as I don't like to admit it, English seems to be becoming the global language and is a good back stop. (Does anyone have the Espiranto version of ISO9K:2K?
System in English vs. having it in local language

A background for everyone else, the ISM (International Safety Management) code is a Safety Management System designed along the lines of ISO9001:94 and adopted by the IMO (International Maritime Organization, think Shippings Big 3) as the new (1998) method of assuring safety issues on board vessels are manged in a consistant way. It has now been adopted into LAW in most countries. This is a direct result of the Exxon-Valdez disaster. Unfortuantely most things in the Marine Industry are reactive, the prime example being life jackets and life boats for all persons thanks to the Titanic.


Thank you James. As far as I read the only place I found where the language issue is raised is (in the ISM code):

"6.6 The Company should establish procedures by which the ship's personnel receive relevant information on the SMS in a working language or languages understood by them."

The working language is Romanian and also the ships are romanian, although business brings us in contact with other nationalities. My concern and the topic are generated somehow by the "customer focus" approach brought by the ISO 9k-2k standard, which would make one want to have its system in english. And also by the fact that we want to have both the systems in one. Because in fact, they complete each other, we apply them and we'll have a "Safety and Quality Management System". The ISO 9k-2k doesn't need to have any language related specification, for obvious reasons.

In short, what makes me wonder what language to use is:
1. if there was any specification or hidden clause regarding this, prefered by auditors or so ...
2. the "marketing" tool the policies and manual can be ...

For now, we'll stay to that idea, mentioned above, and I'll use Gus's advice (10x a lot) to have the forms printed in both languages.

Thank you all.
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