Unlocking improved safety and standards for dry bulk shipping
We know that Covid-19 has presented extraordinary challenges for the maritime industry in 2020. In this post, DBMS Project Lead, Luke Fisher, shares his thoughts on improving safety as we work through these ever-changing conditions.
The shipping industry is facing a truly unprecedented challenge with COVID-19; a situation that nobody could have possibly anticipated. The circumstances we’ve seen so far in 2020 are shaping a ‘new normal’ not just for our sector, but for the entire global economy. We are used to tackling adversity in shipping, having moulded an operational mindset in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis.
We must use this new adversity to develop a vision that fully takes into account some of the most important factors behind every voyage; safety, governance and maintaining robust operational standards.
The latest set of uncertainties builds on the growing societal pressure for our sector to evolve and adapt. In particular, this pressure comes from the requirement for robust and ethical governance and higher standards of safety in shipping. It is important that we use the opportunity presented to us now to collaborate and drive the increase in standards, safety and welfare that shipping needs.
That is not to say that our sector has not made progress to date. The State of Maritime Safety report, published in April 2020, shows that total loss incidents have continued to decline over the last five years, dropping from 0.16% for the world fleet vessel count in 2015 to 0.09% in 2019. This trend has also been seen in the dry bulk sector, where there is now a general acceptance that vessels are safer than they were a decade ago.
Why improved safety processes are essential in dry bulk right now
Dry bulk feels the industry safety concerns acutely, with recent high-profile incidents reminding us of the consequences of not taking safety and risk seriously. A mix of unique cargo, different operating patterns and some underinvestment have all combined to heighten the need for a new path towards widescale improvements.
Mechanisms and structures such as the ISM codes are important waypoints on that journey. However, when it comes to improving safety and operational standards on the existing dry bulk fleet, we must be clear that there’s no ceiling when it comes to safety standards.
Many mariners and industry participants will have terrible memories of where they have seen friends and colleagues killed, maimed or injured by lapses in safety on board. Furthermore, recent events have shone a light on just how psychologically demanding it is to operate at sea for months at a time. It is an injustice to seafarers to have safety anxieties alongside the existing burdens of working at sea.
An industry aspiration, therefore, must be to see the highest standards of safety and welfare beyond base compliance, and to ensure that our seafarers are getting the support they need.
We can look to the success of groups in other sectors such as OCIMF, whose Tanker Management and Self-Assessment (TMSA) Programme has helped to drive a step-change in the tanker sector by providing operators with an introspective, self-assessment approach to safety improvement.
How the DBMS can help to improve outcomes during Covid-19 and beyond
With this need for a mechanism to help drive continuous improvement, the context for the Dry Bulk Management Standard is clear. We have categorised 30 individual subject areas across four sections, it will allow users to be robust enough in self-identifying where they can improve and benchmark against their peers in the DBMS social space. This reinforces the fact that to improve a sector, we must be share lessons in an engaging, collaborative way, so best practice can spread easily.
The establishment of the DBMS represents a new way of thinking within the dry bulk sector. Introspection and collaboration are the watchwords. Intuitively, this makes sense, as owners and operators know their systems better than any external third party. With self-assessment tools, they become their own inspector and examiner, which enables tailored ownership of the pathway to improvement.
The four key operating areas
The 30 subject areas are categorised into four broad operating areas: people, plant, performance and process. These areas examine and support inspections and improvements in everything from procedures and checklists through to measurement, assessment, improved safety, environmental performance and operational efficiency.
Part of the transition needed in the sector is about organisational culture. By developing the right safety and welfare culture, and by making it a social endeavour, we can create an industry where safety is thought about at every opportunity, and not simply when it is reviewed during statutory inspections and audits.
Importantly, DBMS is still in draft format, and the industry’s feedback is a vital next step on the journey. Indeed, this approach is at the heart of DBMS, with iterative improvements based on the realities faced by owners and operators, which will ensure it is widely adopted.
So far, there has been a diverse range of inputs from owners, class societies, port state controls and regulatory authorities. We thank those who’ve taken the time to contribute and collaborate.
Our industry does face an uncertain 2020 and near future. That is why involvement and engagement in DBMS now is so important, as it will help to drive us all towards the increase in standards, safety and welfare that shipping needs.
Learn more and download the DBMS here