An industry view: why we need the new Dry Bulk Management Standard

In the past 12 months, a working group of six shipping companies, along with RightShip have developed a draft Dry Bulk Management Standard in an effort to create consistent guidelines and improve practices across the industry. Since April, more than 300 companies have signed up. In this post, Antonis Faraklas (CEO), Kostas Petrakis (HSQ Manager/DPA) and Ilias Englezos (Deputy DPA) from Charterwell Maritime S.A. tells us why it’s so important.  

I am pleased to be working with key industry partners and RightShip to develop a set of standards for parties including owners, operators, seafarers and manning agents. A unified standard must focus on the human element of shipping, rather than theory. There is a strong need for specific guidelines covering all aspects of shipboard operations from bridge to engine room management and for eliminating unsafe operations so that the industry becomes a global model of excellence for the marine world.  


The ultimate aim of the DBMS  

The introduction of the DBMS will have a positive impact on the market as well as owner and charterer management. Bulk carriers are fundamentally different to tankers with the tanker market being more regulated. The Tanker Management and Self-Assessment (TMSA) programme which has been in place since 2004 is proof that self regulation works and such a system is badly needed by the dry bulk industry.  

Within the dry bulk industry there are five or so big charterers, and there are many small charterers who don’t consistently apply the most rigorous standardsOur aim is to raise standards and boost consistency across the board, in line with the tanker industry 

The longterm expectation should be the elimination of casualties, incidents and accidents through the identification and management of safety critical operations aboard the ships. The loading or discharging operations are critical and there is not enough space for misappraisals of the risks involved. There are no serious control measures on the loading or discharging hazards, but with guidelines in place, we can work to change this.  

Importantly, DBMS will emphasise crew training and retention. This can be an expensive exercise when you consider KPIs and retraining bonuses, especially in a difficult market. Strong training leads to higher retention rates, so it is very important.


Experience drives the need for a set of standards 

I have worked in maritime since the 1980s. In 40 years, I have seen more than one financial crisis and so many reasons to improve – in the 1980s, vessels sunk because owners couldn’t maintain them. The implementation of the ISM in the early 1990s provided an early framework for regulation.

During physical inspections and P&condition surveys on Dry Bulk ships of varying sizes and agesI have observed – to some extent – a lack of safety and environmental focus on board the ships. There have been many opportunities for improvetraining, risk assessment, communication and adequate planning for maintenance.  

Having said that, there are people doing the right thing to raise standards. I have worked on forums with USCG officers, flag administrators and consultants to develop a scope for an integrated level of operations for cargo ships, much like the aviation industry. 

In my present role, I am working with my colleagues to achieve a higher level than minimum compliance to specific safety alerts, marine notices, environmental bulletins and vetting checklists. We are focusing on the best practices for enhancing a better level of awareness for ashore and aboard staff.


Challenges to overcome 

We believe that the most challenging element to overcome will be the human element. The key to a successful voyage is the crew – good crews are scarce, and the mentality of the crew is not the same on each vessel. DBMS will upgrade the management philosophy. 

We don’t want to write risk assessments for every little thing. Rather, we seek to offer a good tool to motivate and empower.  You may have the best tools to run a management company, but if you have untrained officers or crew on board, you are bound to fail. But in using the DBMS, you have a realistic set of guidelines to work from.  

For some owners in the bulk carrier market, the DBMS will be new. We have to work together and show the benefits for all. It will increase their earnings directly, but indirectly operators may see improvements in operations and finances, too. 


There are 30 DBMS standards. Which standards does the industry need the most?  

People will hold different views, but I think the DBMS is significant for the bulk carrier industry because it promotes a higher level of training for both seagoing personnel and ashore staff. It also encourages risk assessment awareness, management of change and focus on critical equipment. 

Overall, the standards focus on proactive safety and environmental managementdon’t want to look just at PSC inspections, which point out ways to improve. We must guide the market and the industry ourselves. We should be transparent and push ourselves forwards rather than waiting to be told. We also have to put more emphasis on the environment preservation coordinating with all the industry associations, especially INTERCARGO as the only representative of bulk carriers Owners and Operators. Its input is important for a balanced workable system. 

Of course, the significant task is the management of change and education to support thisThe ISM Code provided the building blocks for effective vessel management but it was all too easy to produce generic Safety Management Systems which might have satisfied auditors but did not have the desired effect of changing onboard and shore based safety culture. The DBMS creates a useful tool to recognise and fill these gaps. I look forward to seeing safer environment, safer ships and a safer community as a result of its implementation.  


To learn more, download the DBMS guidelines here