An industry view: DBMS at the cutting edge of safety improvement, by Antonis Sakellis

Antonis Sakellis at Safety4Sea in 2016

As part of our ongoing series of interviews with leading industry figures, we spoke to DBMS Working Group member Antonis Sakellis, Safety & Quality Director, Neda Maritime Agency to get his views on how DBMS will improve standards within dry bulk shipping 

“Very early in my career, it was easy to spot difference in safety levels between dry bulkers and tankers, partly due to SIRE inspections,” says Antonis Sakellis. “Even today,” he continues, “it is no surprise that there has been a divergence between dry bulk and tankers, generating a significant inequality in the management of safety and risk.”  

Sakellis has seen most sides of both the tanker and dry bulk sector across his career. As Safety & Quality Director at Neda Maritime Agency, he has strong views about why DBMS can drive improvement – and why that improvement is so needed. 

“Dry bulk-specific guidance for improvement has been lacking in our sector for many years. For companies operating mixed fleets existing  framework of tanker guidelines and standards have worked to overall increase safety for the dry bulk fleet too as  procedures for common management aspects like navigation (to name one) are common For that it  is easy to see why dry bulk operators need direction as they work to improve.” 

“DBMS provides a road map for improvement – a road map that could not have come at a more crucial time for our sector as we work to reduce those inequalities in safety.” 

Sakellis believes that by giving dry bulk operators targeted control of their own improvement, they can iteratively update and upgrade their safety and risk management approach – a fundamental part of using the standard.  

“We want to allow the dry bulk segment to assist itself and achieve gradual and continual improvement. The common benchmarking process through DBMS will allow us to direct our efforts as owners, operators and managers and achieve the improvement in level of safety that we need.”  

“DBMS has 30 standards spread across four performance areas. Each at its final version will have been carefully developed as a result of a considerable amount of collaboration between industry stakeholders such as owners, managers and risk experts,” he explains. “Consequently, each standard and performance area will apply to every vessel and every fleet.” 

And which of the standards does he pinpoint as most valuable for those just entering the process of iterative improvement with DBMS?

“It’s a very difficult task to differentiate because each performance area is so needed by the industry,” he says. “But if I had to choose, it would be the ones related to People. That’s because while you can have the best processes and procedures on paper, it’s the people who have to implement them.” 

“You have to focus on your people,” he continues. “I can sit in my office and write procedures, but you need people to implement these out on the ground. And whilst training is one thing, it is important that people feel like they own the procedures and the improvement pathway in their own right.” 

“More importantly, DBMS is based on the principle of feedback and improvement. When they feel like it is a system that works for them, staff will make proposals to improve it. That is a valuable extra insight for the working group and, subsequently, all stakeholders participating in the finalisation of DBMS as we work to continuously update DBMS in the future.”  

On the working group, Sakellis speaks fondly of how DBMS was created. “Of course, you feel like you are doing something that is good for the industry for a whole. That is not to say it was easy; there was a lot of brain storming and arguing.” He pauses. “Sometimes very loud arguing, but always in good spirit and faithBut DBMS draft created by the working group is now up for the whole shipping world to see and comment upon, meaning that it will be a tool created by the industry for the industry.”  

After all, we may have missed something, and we certainly cannot claim to be 100% right. Instead, we put our brains together to get something down for the rest of the world and to get their comments.” 

That feedback and insight will be valuable over the next year, he concludes. “There’s a real excitement about what DBMS might mean for our sector. I’m proud to have played my part in realising a set of standards made by dry bulk, for dry bulk.” 

“It will be created by the shipping companies, for shipping companies,” he continues. “That is the best part of it; nothing has been set down as a set of standard targets and expectations with the idea that ‘this is it’.” 


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.