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Last update : 07/05/2018

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Farewell to Mr. Kazem Rezwan (Austria)

SC Meeting in Stockholm

 

Geneva (3 May 2018): The 82nd SC meeting took place in Stockholm (Sweden) on 20 April 2018 under the chairmanship of Ms. Dalia Yarom (Israel). The meeting was attended by 48 officials representing 19 out of 20 Contracting States (Slovak Republic did not attend) and 2 out of 4 Applicant States (Italy and Serbia).

 

Main news

The SC welcomed Croatia as the 20th Contracting State, which joined the Convention on 19 March 2018. 

Following a proposal by the Czech Republic, the SC unanimously agreed to renew the invitation previously extended to Italy on 26 October 2011 to accede to the Convention.  The Depositary will circulate to Contracting States the SC’s proposal to re-invite Italy in line with Article 12 of the Convention. If there are no objections, Italy will be officially invited to accede.

After several years of negotiation, the SC agreed on the revision of the Convention's Technical Annexes and the related Compilation of Technical Decisions. The finalised text will be formally notified to Contracting States by the Depositary and enter into force on 1 January 2019, assuming there are no delays.

In Stockholm the following outstanding issues in the revision of the Technical Annexes were resolved: sub-contracting of testing to other Assay Offices authorised under the Convention; the shared risk approach; benchmarks for XRF Testing; and a minimum size for all compulsory marks.

Sub-contracting of testing to other Assay Offices authorised under the Convention continues to be permitted for a short-term in response to an emergency. Long-term sub-contracting will now be possible subject to the prior approval of the Standing Committee. An agreement on the definition of the “shared risk approach” has been found, reflecting the particular needs of the Convention, which does not allow negative tolerance. The benchmarks for XRF Testing have been specified and will be incorporated into the Compilation of Acts of the Standing Committee. The benchmarks reflect the averages from the Round Robin results from the previous 5 years. A minimum size of 0.5mm was agreed for all compulsory marks, which must be legible using 10x magnification. 

Once they enter into force, the amended Annexes will introduce a significant number of novelties such as a new, standardised Common Control Mark (CCM); new standards of fineness; the possibility to combine compulsory marks; the obligation for Assay Offices to demonstrate competence; and the possibility to subcontract testing.

 

Other news

The SC reviewed the accession of Serbia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine. 

The Serbian Assay Office provided information on changes in the Serbian government, which are responsible for the delays in the ratification process. Sri Lanka did not attend, although information was provided relating to the on-going efforts to carry out a follow-up inspection scheduled to take place in late 2018. Switzerland provided information on its on-going high-level exchanges with Ukraine (non-attending). The Standing Committee endorsed a proposal for the Chairperson to write to Ukraine to request information on its commitment to join the Convention. 

The Chairperson of the Working Group on Vision and Strategy (WGVS), Ms Valentina Valestany (SWEDAC), provided a presentation on the new vision for the Convention and related strategies developed by the Working Group. The presentation was well received by Members, who were briefed on the 5th meeting held in Porto (Portugal) on 24 October 2017 and the 6th meeting held on 19 April 2018 in Stockholm (Sweden). The SC agreed that the vision and strategies proposed by the WGVS would be circulated to all Contracting States for comment by written procedure.

The Standing Technical Group (STG) reported on its 22nd meeting held by teleconference on 14°February 2018 under the chairmanship of Mr Thomas Brodmann (Swiss Assay Office).  The SC re-elected Mr. Thomas Brodmann and Mr. Peters Brangulis (Assay Office of Latvia). The STG also reviewed proposals regarding the amendment of the Convention's Annexes and related Technical Decisions and postponed discussions related to Round Robins until its next meeting to be held on 18 June 2018 in Edinburgh (UK). The SC appointed a new STG Member Mr. Sipke van der Meulen from Edelmetaal Waarborg Nederland (EWN).

Statistics for 2017 on articles marked with the CCM show a decline of 8% in the total number of articles marked.  There has been a 37% increase in the proportion of articles marked offsite with the CCM in comparison to 2016. This is mainly due to the fact that for the UK offsite marking has increased from 53% to 94% in 2017.

A paper on the new website was presented by the Secretariat, which outlined proposals to update and improve the Convention’s website. The improvements will include notably: developing a visual identity and considering a new logo; increased security and confidentiality; improving content management through the use of a personalised Content Management System; and enhancing the website structure and content. 

 

The SC bid farewell to Mr. Kazem Rezwan (Austria) longstanding Member of the SC since 2002.

The next SC meeting will take place in Riga (Latvia) on 5 September 2018.

 


Croatian Hallmarks

Croatia joins the Convention


Geneva (19 March 2018): The Republic of Croatia has officially joined the Convention to become the 20th Contracting State. Croatia applied for membership back on 31 January 2014. An inspection was carried out on 13-14 November 2014 and the Convention's Depositary, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, invited Croatia to join the Convention on 27 October 2015. The Croatian Parliament ratified the Convention on 27 October 2017 and Croatia deposited its instruments of ratification with the Depositary on 19 December 2017. The accession of Croatia became effective on 19 March 2018.

 


Dates of Next Meetings


Geneva (7 November 2017): The next meetings of the Standing Committee (SC) and the International Association of Assay Offices (IAAO) will take place as follows:

- 20 April 2018: SC meeting in Stockholm (Sweden) 

- 5-6 September 2018: SC & IAAO meetings in Riga (Latvia) 

- 14 March 2019: SC meeting (Slovenia) 

The attendance of all above-mentioned meetings is restricted to Members, Observers and Guests.

 


SC Meeting in Porto

Geneva (26 October 2017): The 81st SC meeting took place in Porto (Portugal) on 23 October 2017 under the chairmanship of Ms. Dalia Yarom (Israel).  The meeting was attended by 49 officials representing the 19 Contracting States and 2 out of 5 Applicant States (Serbia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine did not attend).

The SC re-elected Ms Dalia Yarom (Standards Institution of Israel), Mr Ashley Carson (Sheffield Assay Office) and Ms Maria Magdalena Ulaczyk (Polish Regional Assay Office of Warsaw) for the respective positions of SC Chairperson, First Deputy Chairman and Second Deputy Chairperson for a 2-year term starting on 1 January 2018 and ending on 31 December 2019.  It also re-elected the Chairman of the Standing Technical Group (STG), Mr Thomas Brodmann (Swiss Assay Office), for a 2-year term as well 4 STG Members (from the Assay Offices of Edinburgh, Latvia, Sheffield, and Warsaw) and 5 Corresponding Members (from the Cyprus, Czech, Danish, Irish and Krakow Assay Offices).

The SC reviewed the accession of Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine. Good news was reported on Croatia and Italy:

- Croatia informed the SC that it is about to complete the accession process.

- Following discussions between Italy and the Czech Republic at ministerial level, the Czech Ministry of Trade and Industry has agreed in principle to lift its objection to the accession of Italy to the Convention.  The SC has agreed to consult the Depositary on the exact procedure in order to lift the Czech objection so that the issue can be formally resolved.

No progress was, however, reported on the accession of Serbia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine (all not attending).

The SC agreed in substance on the revision of the Convention's Technical Annexes and the related Compilation of Technical Decisions. The finalised text will be presented at the next SC meeting in Stockholm. In the meantime, some minor issues as well as the translation of the texts into French will have to be addressed. The revised Technical Annexes will then be formally notified to Contracting States by the Depositary and enter into force at a date agreed by Contracting States.

The revised Technical Annexes will allow for the sub-contracting of testing to other Convention's Assay Offices, subject to a number of conditions.  This delegation is particularly relevant for the testing of palladium or platinum articles, for which there is not much demand.  They will also introduce the obligation for Convention's Assay Offices, which are not accredited to ISO 17025, to meet the main requirements of accreditation, in particular in terms of having a quality management system. The SC also managed to find a compromise on the issue of XRF testing and adopted Guidelines, which specify the conditions under which XRF testing can be used under the Convention. It also agreed on the design of the new standardised Common Control Mark (CCM) to be introduced in parallel to the exiting CCM marks.

The Chairperson of the Working Group on Vision and Strategy (WGVS), Ms Valentina Valestany (SWEDAC), briefed Members on the 4th meeting held in Geneva (Switzerland) on 31 March 2017. Another meeting was held just after the SC meeting in Porto. The WGVS will present the outcome of its discussions on the SWOT analysis (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) at the next SC meeting in Stockholm.

The Standing Technical Group (STG) reported on its 21st meeting held in Bern (Switzerland) on 17 August 2017 under the chairmanship of Mr Thomas Brodmann (Swiss Assay Office).  The STG reviewed proposals regarding the amendment of the Convention's Annexes and related Technical Decisions and discussed a number of investigations and corrective action taken by Assay Offices, which exceeded permissible limits during the last interlaboratory proficiency testing scheme on precious metals (Round Robin - RR).  Based on the STG's recommendation, the SC was able to adopt revised Guidelines on RR and new guidelines on the safekeeping of CCM software. It also endorsed the job description for STG Members and Corresponding Members as well as the STG's work programme.

The next SC meeting will take place in Stockholm (Sweden) on 20 April 2018.

 


SC Meeting in Geneva


Geneva (5 April 2017): The 80th SC meeting took place in Geneva (Switzerland) on 30 March 2017 under the chairmanship of Ms. Dalia Yarom (Israel).  The meeting was attended by 39 officials representing 17 out of 19 Contracting States (Austria and the Netherlands were not represented) and 3 out of 5 Applicant States (Serbia and Ukraine did not attend).

The meeting focused on mainly technical issues, in particular the revision of the Convention's Technical Annexes and the related Compilation of Technical Decisions. The following issues were discussed by the SC: 

- Intermediate base metal layers 
The SC reviewed the outcome of a Convention-internal survey on intermediate base metal layers in precious metal articles.  The survey showed substantial differences in the acceptance of such layers by the 19 Contracting States.  The SC followed the recommendation made by the Standing Technical Group (STG) and decided not to allow such layers in principle under the Convention.  Practical exceptions based on technical reasons may, however, be considered in the future.

- Delegation of testing
The SC endorsed in principle a proposal by the STG to allow Convention's Assay Offices to delegate their testing competence to other Convention's Assay Offices, subject to a number of conditions.  This delegation is particularly sensible for the testing of palladium or platinum articles, for which there is not much demand.  The Norwegian Assay Office was invited to table an alternative wording regarding the number of articles to be considered in order to determine whether an Assay Office can delegate its competence.

- Accreditation
The SC reviewed the outcome of a Convention-internal survey on the cost of accreditation as well as a proposal by the STG to make accreditation to ISO 17025 a compulsory requirement under the Convention.  However, this was not unanimously supported.  As a result, the STG was invited to re-discuss the issue and come up with alternative proposals.

- XRF testing
The SC endorsed in principle an amendment to the conditions related to the acceptance of XRF as a testing method (not to be mixed up with XRF screening), taking into consideration the measurement of uncertainty.  The STG was invited to complete the drafting of Guidelines on XRF testing, which will specify the conditions under which XRF testing can be used under the Convention.

- New CCM
The SC agreed that in order to be used as a 0.5mm mark, the new standardised Common Control Mark (CCM), to be introduced in parallel to the exiting CCM marks, needed to remain simple.  The Secretariat was asked to present possible options in time for the next meeting.

The SC reviewed the accession of Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine.

- Both Croatia and Serbia (not attending) are in the process of ratifying the Convention. 

- Regarding the accession of Italy, the SC was informed that the Czech Republic and Italy had agreed in principle on a visit by a Czech Delegation to the Italian laboratory of Vicenza.  The SC invited both parties to agree on a date in order for the visit to take place in the next 2 months, thus allowing the Czech Republic to possibly reconsider its objection to Italy's accession in time for the next SC meeting.

- There are some signs that Ukraine (not attending) will resume its accession process to the Convention.  

- Regarding Sri Lanka, the SC requested the STG to propose a technical expert to carry out a follow-up inspection to Sri Lanka.  

The Depositary (not attending) informed Contracting States on changes regarding the Assay Office marks of Ireland and the authorised Assay Office of WaarborgHolland in the Netherlands.  

The Working Group on Vision and Strategy (WGVS) briefed Members on the 3rd meeting (held in Larnaca, Cyprus, on 27 September 2016) and its discussions on the SWOT analysis (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats).  A 4th meeting took place on 31 March 2017 in Geneva.

The Standing Technical Group (STG) reported on its 20th meeting held in Geneva on 16 January 2017.  A new STG Deputy Chairman was elected in the person of Mr Peters Brangulis (Assay Office of Latvia).  The STG reviewed proposals regarding the amendment of the Convention's Annexes and related Technical Decisions.  It discussed a number of investigations and corrective action taken by Assay Offices, which exceeded permissible limits during the last interlaboratory proficiency testing scheme on precious metals (Round Robin - RR).  These investigations were tabled to the SC for information.  The STG also reviewed comments made by the SC on the revision of the RR Guidelines and integrated those deemed compatible with the aim of the revision.  At the SC meeting, the Polish Assay Offices requested that an exemption be made for Assay Offices, which do not use XRF. The revision of the Guidelines was thus sent back to the STG.  The STG also reviewed draft guidelines on CCM software, which were shared with the SC for comments.

The SC discussed two cases regarding "Assaying and Marking Practice" (AMP).  It noted that statistics on articles marked with the Common Control Mark (CCM) in 2016 had increased by 3.8%.

The next SC meeting will take place in Porto (Portugal) on 23 October 2017.