An industry view: challenges and opportunities for ship management through the DBMS  

Brendon Hawley

As we continue to refine the DBMS, Brendon Hawley, Head of Global Safety and Compliance at Wilhelmsen Ships Agency, discusses the impact a new standard can have on ship management and safe transportation of cargo.


I have seen dramatic changes to safety in my 50 years in the maritime industry. Of those years, 20 were spent at sea, sailing on tankers, bulk carriers, general cargo and container vessels. I’ve also completed shore-based roles in global vessel operations, with twelve international transfers. The International Safety Management Code (IMS) was the one set of standards that changed the way the industry went about improving culture and preventing human injury or loss of life, as well as avoiding of damage to the environment, and to property. InterCargo’s causality report show 101 lives and nine bulk carriers were lost between 2008 to 2017. Ammendment (04-17) to IMSBC Code has assisted in reducing risk.

The DBMS builds on this and provides owners and operators with a more cohesive structured set of guidelines, delivered via self-regulation and self-assessment, versus paper compliance and mandatory certification models.


Challenges for ship owners and managers

I know there are owners and managers out there deliberating the need for DBMS, but I believe that having comprehensive practical standards that create a level playing field is beneficial for our industry. The tanker sector has the OCIMF which promotes safe and environmentally responsible transportation of cargoes via industry-agreed initiatives. But the dry bulk sector remains fragmented. If the DBMS if used correctly will provide a cohesive link.

It costs money to operate correctly, and this is where I believe DBMS can play a major role in assisting the industry, by focusing in on the safety through a defined standard. Making it easy to use will go a long way. The masters on board have too much too administration work. For example, if you take a vessel calling into the east coast of Australia, there are 14 emails with attachments prior to arrival. Port restrictions, customs, immigration, terminal regulations and more.

Often, they just sign paperwork and send it back, as they don’t have time to read through it all. That’s why we don’t want DBMS to be another document which is passed down internally.

I believe that through collaboration on the DBMS we can learn from each other. For example, there are cape-size vessels trading with a five-star rating, that are not able to trade into Port Hedland, due to the design of the vessel. The bollard pull needs to be 120 tonnes, but on the older vessels is 70 tonnes. A star rating is not enough to establish suitability for a specific voyage.

I can get a good sense of a vessel’s management just by walking up the gang way. Is it painted, neat and tidy? It’s like walking into someone’s front garden. If the lawn hasn’t been mowed for three weeks, you can tell the state of the house as well.


Considering dangerous cargo transportation

That said, it’s one thing to have a well-maintained ship, it’s another to have people trained specifically on managing the cargo type that they’re moving. There is more loss of life due to liquefication than any other part of the supply chain in the maritime industry. According to INTERCARGO, nearly 300 lives have been lost in the past five years and we must get these figures down.

That’s why “Process”, in my opinion, should be the initial key focus area of the DBMS. There is one standard, which I believe needs to be added to the list and could possibly fall under “Cargo and Ballast”: the topic of Liquefaction of Ore Cargoes. Much more needs to be done in this space to prevent further casualties

It is a fact that there are owners and managers who are very well equipped in the way they operate and implement their Safety Management Systems (SMS) and for them “DBMS” will be a form of validation. For others the DBMS will assist through a defined route map to progress. There is a disparity in the make-up of bulk owners and operators, DBMS will level the playing field.


Learn more and download the DBMS here