Namely, DBMS (Dry Bulk Management Standard) has been the result of a significant amount of collaboration from a working group consisting of dry bulk owners, operators and managers  and RightShip has been one of the industry participants within the DBMS working group who have helped create the draft standards and support it to get it to a position where it can be made available and ready for industry feedback.

A self assessment tool like this was what exactly the dry bulk sector had been missing for so long; Mr. Fisher notes that the dry bulk sector needs to go beyond base compliance and drive improvements at individual vessel and owner level to enhance safety across the entire sector.

SAFETY4SEA: What are the reasons for the creation of DBMS?

Luke Fisher: DBMS has been created to specifically drive an increase in safety standards within dry bulk shipping. Although the sector has made considerable improvements to safety in the past decade, we believe that providing dry bulk owners, operators and managers with a clear pathway will drive yet further increases in standards.

Importantly, DBMS is also intended to be a forum for shared improvement and benchmarking. The recognition that this is a shared journey is one of the best ways to generate real change, which is why DBMS has been built from the ground up to be fundamentally collaborative and improved iteratively.

S4S: Which will be the key challenges and next frontiers for the dry bulk industry for the near future?

L.F.: One of the most immediate challenges will be how to withstand the impact of COVID-19 without compromising safety. Moreover, owners, operators and managers will have serious cost concerns as dry bulk day rates continue to perform weakly.

Times like these serve to highlight the importance of safety and good governance. Not only can an excellent safety record be an important commercial differentiator, but it can also help to prevent further losses and commercial impacts down the line. Ultimately, we cannot forget the importance of improving safety in current times. That’s why we have designed DBMS to be very clear and help owners establish a pathway that is right for their vessels, fleet and organisation.

S4S: Could you please elaborate on the standard finalization process and input/feedback form the industry? What is your feedback from the market so far? 

L.F.: The DBMS has been set up and established as a result of a significant amount of industry collaboration. Senior owners, operators, managers and risk management experts convened to develop a way to support the dry bulk sector that crucially gives owners, operators and managers control of their own pathway.

The variety of collaborators was key to the development of the initial standards, as it enabled us to draw on a wide variety of in-operation experience and perspectives. For example, key contributors included dry bulk owners who have a passion for improving safety and who understand the importance of driving widespread improvement within the sector, beyond base compliance.

DBMS constitutes 30 standards across four key areas; People, Performance, Plant and Process. Within these 30 subject areas, we have defined 17 priority areas which are intended to be a starting point for companies with limited resources, to start the self-assessment process, before including the remaining subject areas.

Currently, the standard is in a draft phase so that we can gather feedback. Since launching the draft standard in late March, we have received large amounts of feedback from a representative cross-section of dry bulk and its associated sectors. This feedback will be considered by DBMS’s steering committee, before we ultimately launch the final standards for industry use next year. This is a key goal of DBMS; it was born out of collaboration and will be refined and developed through further industry collaboration.

S4S: How do you believe the new DBMS to change the approach to safety within the dry bulk sector? What are your aspirations for the next five years?

L.F.: Supporting a wide scale improvement in safety will not happen quickly. Over the past few years the dry bulk sector has already made significant safety improvements, but we think more can be done to help owners, operators and managers establish a clear pathway for improvement and benchmark themselves against their peers.

Other market segments within shipping have developed similar self-reflective approaches towards safety. Part of this is because of baseline attitudes that differ across shipping. For example, tanker operations and design have evolved from the oil industry, where an extremely robust operating environment is required to minimise risk across the supply chain due to the dangerous cargo they often carry.

The bulk industry has not faced these same pressures to be so rigorous. Regulations for the design and equipment onboard bulk carriers have improved, and it is fair to say that the industry does take adhering to base compliance seriously. The DBMS will help the dry bulk sector go beyond base compliance and drive improvements at individual vessel and owner level to enhance safety across the entire dry bulk sector.

S4S: When will the final version be available? What are the next key steps after that from your end, time wise?

L.F.: DBMS is currently in a draft state, and we are inviting the industry to provide their feedback so that we can further refine the standard. Considering all this feedback is not a small undertaking, but we hope to have a final version ready for use by the sector in 2021. Clearly, this is an ongoing and iterative process and we will continue to consider updates and improvements to DBMS beyond the first final standard, to respond to new and emerging technologies and trends within dry bulk shipping.

S4S: What is your wish list for the operators and other industry stakeholders involved with the DBMS implementation towards safety, security and environmental excellence? What is your key message to industry stakeholders with regards to DBMS?

L.F.: We would encourage all dry bulk owners, operators and managers to help us at this stage and provide their feedback on DBMS. When the standard is in its final state, we want mangers of bulk carriers to self-assess their management systems against the standard. It is important that the self-assessment process is carried out as honestly and critically, as possible – there is no benefit in exaggerating a company’s level of compliance. Once the assessment has been carried out the company should review the results, in order to initiate an improvement programme. We believe that the ability to target individual target areas for improvement will help to smooth the process of overall safety improvement considerably, as users can ultimately choose how quickly they want to adapt and evolve their operations.

The DBMS represents the next phase of a journey that has come about from deep industry collaboration. It draws firsthand on the experiences of a number of owners and operators and their journey towards improving safety within their day to day operations.

As it has been developed by the industry, for the industry, it has been specifically formatted not to represent an additional burden on owners and operators. Furthermore, it is not excluded to a specific fleet size, but to all fleets, all owners and all operators.

The message from DBMS right now is to provide that feedback and to not be daunted by the new standard when it is in use; we have designed it to be easy to use and to support the sector with the iterative improvement that it needs. If we all take this approach, we will start to see tangible improvements in our sector, and that is something for all of us to be excited about.


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.

Mr. Luke Fisher is the Project Lead of the new DBMS (Dry Bulk Management Standard)