In light of the unprecedented crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic, Capt. Nestoras Grigoropoulos, DPA at Sea Traders S.A., discusses ways for the shipping companies to avoid disruptions within their operations and enhance their resilience.
For many years now almost all prudent companies, certainly those involved with the TMSA or other vetting processes, are in the pursuit to build resilient people and systems on the way they work. Senior office personnel and vessels’ staff have passed a number of extensive training and have been vetted by third parties over and over again so as to demonstrate the level which they can respond to shipboard and office contingencies.
But what is “Resilience”?
Once I read that “…Resilience is a reflex-a way of facing and understanding the world-that is deeply etched into a person’s mind and soul. Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solution from thin air…”.
In other words, you can’t control what will happen but you can certainly control the way you respond to it. At least to a certain degree, that will allow you to continue your life as a person and your scope as a company.
One thing is for sure; resilient companies will continue and will manage to deal with the recent hardship. Others will not. If you don’t have a business continuity plan in place then you are really going to have a problem. Especially in shipping which is a particularly complex industry. Remember that a shipping company may have premises in different places and its assets (i.e. its vessels) in all quarters of the globe.
Amid this unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 outbreak that has created serious issues and disruptions not only in shipping but in global markets and in the way “we do business”, the effectiveness of a company’s business continuity plan will be stress-tested to its limits. It is now, more than ever before, the time that we will check in real terms how resilient we are.
So, what action plan needs to be followed to avoid disruptions?
To start with,
#1 a specific management review has to take place the soonest possible and a comprehensive risk assessment has to be conducted.
During the risk assessment process the organization is required to:
- Identify key business areas and critical functions. All aspects of the organization have to be considered, as well as the impact that temporary disruptions may have;
- Assess to which extent critical functions may be hampered due to the recent COVID-19 threat;
- Take all the necessary control measures that will allow the company and its assets to withstand to the unavoidable disruptions;
- And minimize the risk of losses as low as reasonably practicable.
#2 Establish a plan and communicate it to all office personnel via training sessions. Explain to them how the work has to be done in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak and what you expect from them to do. This process will create an environment of trust among the employees and the sense that everything is under control. The plan will then has to be communicated and made understood to all fleet vessels.
#3 Be ready for semi-remote working with “skeleton staff” or even work completely from home. If you haven’t done already, it is now the time to invest in “work-from-home” technology. Make sure that all people within your organization are able to work from home. Check who is and who is not provided with laptops or PCs. Further, check and record who has access to secure internet connection. Consideration must be given to cyber threats during the process of risk assessment mentioned above.
#4 Effective internal communication is of paramount importance. To facilitate the scope of internal communications the use of platforms such as “Slack” or “G Suite” can be used. Teleconferences through SKYPE are not something new or difficult to be implemented. Again all possible measures must be taken to minimize the risk of a cyber-attack.
#5 Before you go remotely, test your plan more than once to ensure that it works and that office staff is indeed familiar with it. “Practice makes perfect”.
To conclude, never is too late to establish a business continuity plan to deal with this unexpected threat. The new COVID-19 appears as an asymmetric threat. Shipping industry, like rest of the world, retains the hope that scientists will soon find the vaccine to relieve the humanity from this deadly new virus. Till then, be resilient to overcome!
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
Capt. Nestoras Grigoropoulos is the Designated Person Ashore (DPA) at Sea Traders S.A. (As agents only)