An industry view: DBMS and a personal journey, by George Sarris

In the next part of our ongoing series of interviews with leading industry figures, DBMS Working Group member George Sarris, Managing Director of Enterprises Shipping and Trading S.A, shares his personal journey and history with the development of a set of standards for dry bulk shipping 

George Sarris is a leading figure within the dry bulk shipping industry. His career has been marked by pioneering moments to improve the safety of the segment. The story of how he became involved with DBMS and driving dry bulk standards goes back almost twelve years, as he explains. 

“A set of guidelines for the dry bulk sector like DBMS have been a long time coming. For me, I can trace my interest back to when the Greek shipping sector and the wider maritime industry began to develop new ways of thinking about safety.” 

“Twelve years ago, I mentioned to RightShip’s David Peel that our company was taking proactive steps towards safety improvement for our Bulk Carriers as well as for our Tanker vessels by preparing a new system with which we planned to operate the bulkers.  Our idea was born after receiving the European Quality Award,” George Sarris says. “This helped inspire David and me to start working on the Bulk Carrier Management Self-Assessment (BMSA), and in turn the seeds of an idea to develop the tools that can support a culture of safety within the dry bulk sector grew for both of us.”  

DBMS is based on the industry expectations and BP guidance from across shipping, George Sarris believes. “Within DBMS, there is inspiration drawn from the process that Enterprises undertook to improve safety and quality standards across our mixed fleet of tankers and bulkers. A big part of this was our decision to go for the European Quality Award and how that helped us prepare for the Tanker Management and Self-Assessment (TMSA) programme.” 

“Building on our passion to develop an industry-wide improvement in safety, we published online the details of our EFQM activity and how it made us more prepared for the TMSA implementation a few years later. From that, one of the interesting themes we noticed as part of our work with the EFQM was that it was the voluntary self-assessment programme that resulted in significant improvements.” 

“Early on for DBMS, therefore, we decided that the best way to realise safety improvement was by giving owners a transparent process without presenting them with any additional burden.” 

This principle is in DBMS’s DNA, George Sarris explains. “Self-assessment is key because it allows owners, operators and managers to measure their performance and identify gaps in their operation with the ultimate goal of continuous improvement. This sort of thinking makes more sense as no one knows you and your ship better than yourself. By acting as your own auditor and inspector, you will find out where you are weak and identify room to improve.” 

As an added benefit, self-assessment is more dynamic, he believes. But it is most powerful when it is combined with a culture that recognises the commercial and reputational benefits of exceeding baseline compliance. “With self-assessment, you realise a far more dynamic approach than by simply relying to rigid regulations. Of course, the best approach in order to generate genuine improvements is by combining those two, which will allow you not only to achieve base compliance but also improve beyond it.  

George Sarris recalls first-hand how exceeding the compliance baseline has always been a powerful commercial motivator for Enterprises. “Continuous improvement is part of our company’s core values. An approach that uses self-assessment to identify weaknesses has in turn allowed us to experience commercial success of great significance and enjoy thriving relationships with our first class tanker and bulk charterers. When we’ve been audited there has been welcome, constructive feedback and significant praise from industry leaders.” 

“I want the whole sector to see that there are real benefits of improvement in following specific standards. This is crucial if the dry bulk sector is to undergo large scale improvements.  Importantly, we must also all be champions of collaboration. That’s why we are proud to be supporters of DBMS.” 

George Sarris also says that DBMS is well-timed for a sector that is increasingly under more scrutiny than ever before. 

“Shipping is gradually catching up to operating in a world where more scrutiny is paid to our operations. Rightly, we must look after our people first – and owners and operators must be equipped with the tools that can help them make meaningful improvements.” 

“I believe that owners, operators and managers will appreciate the impact that DBMS can have on their operations,” he adds. His advice for new users: “Users of DBMS should start small and target the areas where they think they can make simple improvements, and then build up from there. That was our experience in the past with similar standards, such as TMSA for tankers.” 

“An extra element for DBMS is that this is a collaborative approach. All users will be able to see how their scores benchmark against others, allowing for a shared journey of improvement.” George Sarris believes this will be a powerful motivator in such a close-knit sector. “DBMS means that we, as dry bulk operators, are all in this together.” 

“We should all share this common goal of laying down a roadmap for continuous improvement of safety and risk management standards. In its draft form, DBMS is a tremendously exciting set of industry best practice guidance built out of the sheer passion and determination of our working group.” 

The next step is for industry feedback, Sarris concludes. “In time, the dry bulk sector will have created for itself a powerful tool for staged self-improvement. I believe that owners who lead by example and use DBMS will be the first movers in a wider push that will ultimately improve the day-to-day working lives of our crew – and better underpin our vessel operations.”  

“More than that, though – as Enterprises has seen over the last 25 years – reaching for excellence ultimately allows us all to enjoy more meaningful relationships with the wider shipping industry, by being champions of improved attitudes to safety.” 


We want to raise safety standards across the whole industry, providing a benchmark for maritime excellence – and we want you to be part of the change. We’re looking to all our industry friends to leave feedback, big or small, on our website to help create the final version of the standards, shaped by the world we share. Submit your feedback today.