Getting started with DBMS – focusing on priority areas 

DBMS was created with a central aim: to help the dry bulk sector reflect, respond, and iteratively evolve in line with an increasing need to improve safety and risk management beyond baseline compliance.

There are important reasons why this needs to take place. Many mariners will be able to tell you first-hand anecdotes of the safety risks they have faced over their careersOver the last decade, more than 200 people have lost their lives due to incidents on dry bulk vessels 

And going beyond aggregate statistics and metrics, I am particularly reminded of an incident in January 2018, where an oil tanker carrying 100,000 MT of condensate and a dry bulk carrier collided. The oil tanker’s cargo tanks were breached and the cargo caught fire, which led to explosions and the sinking of the oil tanker – ultimately claiming the lives of 32 crew 

Risks come in many forms, from fire, collisions, security threats and hazardous atmospheres, to name a few; so how should a ship manager manage and mitigate these risks? The ISM code is a great starting place, but despite the code coming into force over twenty years ago, accidents still happen.  

That’s why we believe DBMS is so impactful. By creating a roadmap to excellence for the dry bulk sector, we will all be able to unify and make meaningful improvements, ultimately to the benefit of all crews and dry bulk vessels.  

Whatever the size your fleet, safety must remain a priority, and we did not want the 30 standards across four performance areas of DBMS to be so daunting that it puts anyone off improving their operations – and particularly those who own, operate and manage smaller fleets 

Tprevent this, as a starting point, we recommend that owners, operators and managers use DBMS to identify areas that have the highest risk for injury to people, damage to the environment and that could prevent effective performance.  



1. Commitment to HSSE

2. Master’s reviews & company evaluation



7. HR management and recruitment (office)

8. Crew management & recruitment

9. Crew technical & HSSE training (vessels)

10. Contractor management



14. Maintenance 

15. Critical equipment

16. Engine room operations & bunkering



19. Mooring & anchoring

20. Cargo & ballast

21. Bridge procedures & standards

22. Risk assessment & management

23. Permit to work

24. Management of change including vessel acquisition

25. Emergency planning including crisis management

26. Incident reporting, investigation & training


Ultimately, everyone’s pathway to improvement will reflect their operations. But the priority areas with DBMS are the first step on the journey. Importantly, the scoring method of the priority areas is no different from the other subject areas.  

Naturally, a company that only self-assesses these subject areas will have a lower overall score than one that uses the complete standard. But by using these areas as a first step, the door is opened and the barrier to entry for improvement is lowered – and we believe the pursuit of improvement will drive most organisations to assess their management practices against the whole standard. 

By establishing a clear pathway, owners, operators and managers can control the improvements they make in an iterative fashion that reflects their crews, vessels and fleets. In taking control of this journey, they will be helping the whole sector to drive improvement – and continue to reduce incidents, loss of cargo, and loss of life at sea. 

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.