You may wonder what someone from the salvage industry has to do with safety. Well when we show up at the scene something has gone wrong, the system has broken and actually the system by design is supposed to break down. The ultimate best practice is to have a safety net at the end of the system.
The three things that lead to success are sustainability, resiliency and continuity. It's very important to be able to sustain and be resilient if something bad happens, just like Carnival Cruise is doing after the Costa Concordia disaster, and to have business continuity so as to be profitable. We are designed to make mistakes. Mariners highly trained have been involved in casualties. As we all have seen SOLAS and OPA 90 are reactive regulations and something new may come out of Costa Concordia. We need to be proactive!
We cannot control the human element. We are designed to fail and we make mistakes, in fact 65 to 70% of all maritime casualties are caused by some sort of human error. The other element which we cannot control is nature, for example hurricanes, typhoons, floods, lightning. A lot of ships explosions are caused by lightning actually. So we have to develop with internal structures within companies, a culture of acceptance that these actions are going to happen and the KPIs, the checklists and the Regulations are there to fill in the holes. If you get in the comfort zone, all these are not going to protect you when you are in trouble.
So casualties equal regulations. I would call regulations a Band-Aid. Honestly I believe that regulations are overcooked and I think it's time to deregulate. So what are the best practices? I remember the days growing up in Peru, when people used to take the seatbelts out of the car because it was a pain to have a seat belt. Now, do you put the seatbelt on because it is the law or you do it because it is the right thing? I can tell personally, that I don't think about the police when doing it, while I remember my father and my grandfather taking the seatbelts out of the car. How many generations has this taken to implement? Simple application, but this is where we need to get to in shipping also.
So safety regulations, are they in a way smothering best practices? Our we overloading the system to a point where all those regulations and procedures are preventing us from doing the right thing? And as young mariners come up, how young people getting involved in shipping are going to learn what the right thing is when there is no time to do it?
I have developed this model, what I call the overloaded BMT (Bridge Management Team) and the SMT (Shore-side Management Team). On one corner there is financial stress and maritime crisis leads to potential operational haircuts. On the other hand, there are experience gaps. The old generation which knows how to use sextant and a paper chart is going away and we are getting into electronics. That will lead to poor decisions. We have a society that is very aware; See for example Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. That leads to unachievable expectations from society and from government that put pressure on those two teams and at the end we have reactive over-regulation. Where does this lead us to? I think it leads to a false sense of security.
What we need to do is to provide an effective maritime safety oversight system that allows for self-regulation and it should be part of a global policy. At the end it all ends up in the bridge and the poor captain.
Let's go to my best practice, the double bike. Safety is great but safety is on the front end, preventive. I'm safe means I'm never going to have an accident. But what if you have an accident? You better have a response system. You better know how to get up on that bike, keep on pedaling or fix the tire. In my opinion that is key to any ship management program, any safety program. You need to accept that you are going to have an accident, and have a system in a procedure to get up and continue operations.
That of course you can see that takes a lot of vision and leadership. Sooner or later, we will have a major casualty or a major pollution, but if we are able to get pass that and develop a policy that really gives resiliency, we get to this integrated safety and response.
When it all goes wrong you need to have a safety net, the Emergency Response Services. New regulations come up all the time, such as OPA 90 Salvage and Marine Firefighting Regulations, the new non-tank salvage regulations. If you look at the right angle of this regulation, it does provide a safety net. It has been difficult for the tanker industry but you can see the benefits of established relationships with safety nets in the US, such as delays and business interruption kept to the minimum. My tip of the day is this; don't have a casualty in US waters, and if you do, don't have in Alaska or California!
I believe in the support model that T&T Salvage provides, it helps you comply, respond and to mitigate losses and get you back to business. Be aware that it can happen, and try to avoid it! For those who are in shipping, I will make a few questions. Are you truly committed to being successful in business? Do you have a sustainable framework? Can you go through a Costa Concordia type event? Are you truly committed to safety or are you just there to make charterers and Port State Control happy?
The best practice is to create an environment, throughout top to bottom in your organization, from the Managing Director, from the Owner all the way down, that will allow for recognition of a problem just like an X-ray. Try to find a problem before you have to get drilled by the Coast Guard or by your Charterers or by a lawyer, and for all the young mariners, keep your eyes on the road and off the screen!
Above article is an edited version of Mr Mauricio M. Garrido's presentation during 2013 SAFETY4SEA Athens Forum
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