The interrogation of legal
databases made simple
The Bureau Veritas Rules for the Classification of Ships is a
set of 30,000 rules, which state the requirements for ships to be declared sea-worthy.
They are expressed in technical and legal language and normally are consulted by
specialists in the shipping industry or in maritime law. The CLIME project is making these
rules accessible and understandable for the non-expert.
The project has developed a method of allowing non-specialists to construct complex
legal or technical input to a computer using a simple, mouse driven point-and-click
interface. As users are guided through input construction, a WYSIWYM (What You See Is What
You Meant) system supplies multilingual feedback to help people see how the system is
interpreting their query.
The system is built on a method of automated legal reasoning. This requires all the
concepts in the target text being represented in a knowledge framework. The target
information is encoded into a formal language, after which the system can reason with
these rules. The technological goal of CLIME is to supersede keyword based text and
document retrieval mechanisms. As the technology develops, more bodies of text will be
amenable to this formal encoding and knowledge representation treatment; such texts
equiring less formal structuring.
The CLIME demonstration shows how a non-specialist can interrogate the Bureau
Veritas Rules to check the requirements for seagoing oil tankers. Using a simple
interface, the user may construct sophisticated queries about ships and ships' equipment
and obtain an answer in English, French or Italian. Legal justification and explanation
accompany the answer, with links to the original text of the relevant Rules as well as to
appropriate tables and graphics.