The dissolution of EPERC, the European Pressure Equipment Research Council

I have just received from UCC/ANIMA (Unione Costruttori Caldareria, the Italian Pressure Equipment  Manufacturers’ Association of the ANIMA federation,  the  actual  operating  agent  of EPERC-AISBL) the agenda of the next meeting of this association, to be held in Milan on April 3rd 2014. One of the points on the agenda is the following: “Dissolution of the Association EPERC- AISBL“. Well, when an association is completely useless, the best thing to do is to dissolute it (you could possibly use less gentle words: to disband, to delete, to eliminate, to kill, possibly with the relevant elimination – dissolution – cancellation – assassination of all responsible people, starting with the President, the board of directors, the secretary, and all the employees and workers, if any). Then you can collect all the documents concerned (letters, technical bulletins, conference reports, meeting agendas), bring them to the proper disposal facilities and proceed to disrupt – destroy – eliminate them, so that also the memory of EPERC-AISBL is dissolved – cancelled – disrupted – destroyed, and no one in the world will ever remember anything concerning this stupid and useless association.

But why the said stupid and useless association was created? Just to copy the Americans with their Pressure  Vessel  Research  Council  and  the  Japanese with their  Japan  Pressure  Vessel Research Council? Looking in the Statute of EPERC-AISBL we read:

The main objective of the Association is to develop the European Industry of pressure equipment (manufacturers and users)  through research. Other objective of the Association are:

  • promoting and encouraging under respect of the applicable law, cooperation among the manufacturers and users of pressure equipment;
  • promoting the role and importance of the pressure equipment industry in Europe;
  • safeguarding the interests of the industry, particularly economic policy issues;
  • encouraging technical progress, protection of environment and safety at work in the field of pressure equipment;
  • harmonization of legislation and standardization as well as acceptance tests at international and European levels in order to facilitate the exchange of goods across borders;
  • the promotion of competitive methods for in-service inspection and their recognition in standardization and European legislation;
  • assisting and advising authorities involved in questions concerning pressure equipment at European level.

Its mission is to coordinate and promote the common technical interests and strategies of the European pressure equipment and related industry in relation to European institutions and the international community”.

This was more or less the same program of work of the old EPERC (not yet –AISBL): certainly an ambitious one. But let’s look at some historical data. Founded in 1995 under the auspices of the European Commission, the former EPERC in the year 2000 was organised in several task forces:

TTF1 Fatigue Design

TTF2 High Strength Steels

TTF3 Harmonisation of Inspection Programming in Europe

TTF4 Flanges and Gaskets

TTF5 Service Integrity and Life Extension

TTF6 Tanks  for Alternative Fuels

TTF7 Hydrogen Damage

At  that  time  EPERC  was  only  a  “de  facto”  association,  and  its  operating  agent  was  the  Joint Research  Centre  of   the   European  Commission. In 2003 EPERC  had  more  than  300 members  (individuals  or  organisations).  Several  technical  documents  (Bulletins)  have  been produced in those years, on Flanges, High Strength Steels, etc. Obviously the entry into force of the  Pressure  Equipment  Directive  (2002)  has  decreased  the  interest  of  the Commission in supporting EPERC. Having thus lost also the support of JRC, EPERC was obliged to find volunteers to act as operating agents: the last operating agent of the former EPERC was UCC/ANIMA, who is also the actual operating agent of EPERC-AISBL. In the  general Assembly of December 2007 it was finally decided to transform EPERC from a “de facto” organisation in a “de jure” organisation, thus creating EPERC-AISBL (Association Internationale Sans But Lucratif according to the Belgian legislation), with a better possibility to manage research projects using the funding provided by the Commission for research activities. This decision was further confirmed in 2009 at Budapest. However no one knows why it took UCC/ANIMA so many years to obtain the recognition of EPERC-AISBL as a legal Belgian entity, which happened officially only in 2011 with the Royal Decree of October 27th. Certainly the 3-4 years stop of any activity has caused a fall of interest in many of the original more than 300 members, so that the actual members of EPERC- AISBL  (who actually  paid  the  association  fee  for  the  first  year)  are  a  little  bit  more  than  10 individuals and/or organisations. This fall of interest became evident at the time of the general assembly of November 2011, which  never  took  place,  because  almost  no  one  of  the members was willing to participate. No further date was fixed for this assembly, no promotional activity was carried out by UCC/ANIMA, no one dared even to ask the members for the payment of the subsequent  yearly  association  fees.  So  the   first  general assembly of   EPERC-AISBL, scheduled for  the  next month of April, will also be the last one.  In this general assembly at the first point of the agenda the members will have to approve the financial statements for the year 2012 (result: loss of 29,83 Euro) and for the year 2013 (result: loss of 29,84 Euro), as well as the budget for 2014 (result: loss of 364,70 Euro, having spent all the amount of the original association fees to pay first the constitution, and then the dissolution of EPERC-AISBL). In other words: sorry gentlemen, it was only a joke.

Who is responsible for this? The actual President Dr. Franco Tartaglino? The 6 directors (including myself)? The President of UCC? The President of ANIMA? The European Commission? The original 300 members? The world crisis? Or it is the fault of the cynical and cheat fate, just to recall a famous sentence of Benito Mussolini?

Well,  let’s  try  to  be  realistic.  The  pressure equipment industry  (at  least  the  manufacturing industry) is quickly moving outside Europe: even if many important French, German and Italian Pressure Vessel and Boiler makers still exist, many of them have transferred all their manufacturing activities towards countries like India, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, etc. Only a few European manufacturers, which make qualified vessels of very peculiar and expensive materials, are insisting in keeping their facilities open. May be we have in Europe still some important users, big oil, gas and power generation companies:  but how can you pretend that these poor guys are still interested in developing the Pressure Equipment industry in Europe? How can you pretend that they are interested  in  the  research  on  pressure  equipment?  And  why  they  should  subcontract  their relationships with the European Union to an Association like EPERC-AISBL? Each one of them has already very good links with the European Union. At the end, why they should collaborate with European Institutions and Organisations for the growth of the Pressure Equipment sector, having clarified that in this sector in Europe there is no growth at all? And why they should present to the Commission some stupid research project and ask them for funding? Let other countries make their own research projects and let find themselves the proper funding! In Europe we have already ORGALIME, the European Federation of the Mechanical Industry, which assures the proper contacts with the Commission. Moreover, we have already several CEN Technical Committees, where some experts are amusing themselves in writing the proper EN standards needed for the application of the European Directives (at a really negligible cost, since they are all working for fun). Of course these guys are always complaining that some kind of  theoretical or  experimental work in support of  the  standardization would be  needed, but at the end they will certainly realize  that  the  best  thing  to  do  is  to  go  on  copying  somebody else’s  standards,  leaving  the European  Commission  the  possibility of  using  the  money  of  the  European  tax  payers  for  more important business.

Of  course  there  is  also  the  possibility  that  some  one  of  the  actual  members  will  come  to  the assembly to say that he doesn’t agree with the dissolution of EPERC-AISBL, may be also proposing a change in the board of directors and a change of the operating agent; or may  be  some one  of the members of the former EPERC will have some reasonable proposal to keep this organisation alive. Well, if this is the case, please do something.

Dr. Fernando Lidonnici

Convenor of WG53/CEN TC54