An industry view: why Alpha Bulkers is supporting the DBMS, by Andreas Togantzis
While developing the DBMS with its working group, many members of this team have strong first-hand vessel experience that informs their passion for these new guidelines. Here, Andreas Togantzis, Head of Safety, Quality & Marine Department – DPA, at Alpha Bulkers explains why he’s so committed to an evolution in dry bulk industry standards.
I’ve been working at Alpha Bulker for 10 years. I’m an ex-master with tanker vessels. During my time in the company, we have worked really hard to raise the bar and motivate the crew. This commitment comes as a result of my experience. I come from a family dedicated as navigators. My father was a master, my grandfather was an ex-master. My wife’s family comes from engineers. After all these years, so many standards have been raised and the industry still suffers from incidents and loss of life.
We have a moto at Alpha Bulkers: to ensure the crew understand that somebody is waiting for them ashore – their family, their kids. We started campaigns on board to get this important message through.
All crew members are valuable
I started my career at the bottom of the supply chain. This was an advantage for me because I understand so many positions, from the cook all the way up to the senior officer. Certainly, I have had experiences that have shown the need to set new standards. All these changes usually come after an accident. This shows that the Industry lacks an attitude of prevention and not just a reactive approach to safety management.
Despite the new regulations, the frequent inspections, the new requirements and regulations, after all these years, accidents recur. Our industry still suffers of losing human lives at sea, still suffers ships losses and damaging the environment, unfortunately from repeated accidents.
To build a community which believes in safety within your company, you need to make sure your staff understand that you care for them. Then they will care for you and they will stay. We do this through the 24/7 service we provide. Sometimes people can pick up the phone and ask basic things. We make sure we are always available to answer.
We support our people by providing insurance contracts for the master and his family. We provide them with re-joining bonuses. For example, if a master serves on board our vessels for seven months, he then goes back home for his rest for three months. When he returns to work, he will get paid with a respectable re-joining bonus. It is financial motivation, but it all counts.
Many companies provide employment bonuses across tankers and bulkers, and not just for the captain and chief engineer. We apply these bonuses to the whole crew to make sure we retain people. And we keep training them – we care about their personal development.
This is something we’ve chosen to do, but many other companies don’t. DBMS is not a regulation, but we want people to understand its role and the value it can provide. You decide using this tool where you want to stand and how high you want to climb.
Investing in retention
In our last management review, the retention rate was 92.7% for Greek officers. This is the way to succeed. For us, all the crew on board is equal. We don’t divide deck and engine.
When I go on board, I put all the equipment on. I wear the helmet with the earmuffs. I protect myself and it helps the crew understand that it’s important. That’s why I’m passionate about the training components of the DBMS. Investing in training means taking control of your own future. The benefits of investing in training include increased productivity, a more effective organisational culture and reduced incidents. All of these elements result in a more successful business.
Whatever contains the word “Training” is my passion. Investing in Crew & Shore Staff Training means that you take control of your own future. Proper evaluation of your training program means you go deeper, making sure you get the most impact of the training you have invested for. The benefits to a Shipping Company when investing in the training and development of its staff include increased productivity, a more effective organisational culture and reduced Incidents / accidents on-board.
How is it possible to establish the safety culture when you don’t know the human behaviour and you don’t know the people on board? When we get newcomers in our crew, we ask them lots of questions and make sure we monitor their performance.
This is why DBMS is so important, it is a guide that will stimulate change and implementation of better safety procedures for all people working at sea.
Learn more and download the DBMS here