Lessons learned: improving standards for dry bulk

The maritime industry is facing increasing pressure to adapt, evolve and make sure it moves in line with the wider world. A greater focus on ethical governance is starting to heap a significant amount of pressure on the sector from the supply chain – and consumers are weighing in to drive change in increasing measure.  

Our other blog post has explored the ‘why, what and how’ of DBMS. The first of these, the ‘why’, is the most important.  

Health, safety, security and pollution prevention are crucial to the safe, compliant and efficient operation of our sector. That’s why improving these standards should be an ongoing and constant area of focus for the dry bulk segment. Moreover, it’s important that we create shared investment in the whole sector’s journey towards safe, compliant and environmentally friendly operations.  

We are all too aware of the cost when shipping does not reach excellence. As a heavy industry, risk across these areas is inherent to operations, but that doesn’t mean that standards cannot be raised and those risks mitigated.  

In the last ten years there have been around 2,000 incidents on dry bulk vessels, and 200 seafarers have lost their lives. After a seafarer suffers an injury or is killed, there is a knock-on impact to them and their family. It can sometimes result in life-changing injuries, often meaning they can never work at sea again.  

This creates a last social and economic impact, and this is just with respect to safety. Consider the impact of a security incident on board a vessel, with the potential for loss of life or cargo, and the effect that this could have on individuals and businesses up and down the supply chain. Both physical and cyber risks are challenging the dry bulk segment in new ways – and should be real ‘lessons learned’ for our industry.  

Pollution and environmental standards are another area that can have a real impact on operations. There is now particular scrutiny on the industry in this arena, thanks to climate change and decarbonisation being firmly in the public mind. As shipping aspires to be more responsible, a core part will be based on minimising our impact on the world and the environment. 

Action in all of these areas has associated benefits for the seafarer. Research by shipping’s leading charities has shown that having a happier, safer crew has a positive operational impact – and therefore should be a commercial consideration in its own right 

That’s why getting serious on standards is not only in the seafarer’s best interest, but is in the entire industry’s interests. There is a path for us to improve these standards realistically and in a step change fashion; improvement does not need to add a burden to dry bulk operators.  

A core element of DBMS is based on setting an attainable benchmark, based on collaboration and comparison. It also sets a pathway to get beyond the compliance baseline. By bringing together different parties to achieve a common goal, we will be able to raise standards across the whole dry bulk segment.  

These standards have been developed following inputs from international ship managers and risk management experts. After implementation, feedback will be key in order to refine and develop the standards to ensure they are doing all they can to support improvement for dry bulk.  


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 the industry 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.