During the 2021 SAFETY4SEA Virtual Forum, Panel 7 discussed about the challenges concerning the safety of dry bulk carriers, as well as key alarming trends. The panelists analyzed the best practices to develop enhanced safety culture onboard dry bulk carriers, and provided lessons learned to ensure a safe navigation.
ompliance with the mandatory requirements and adherence to procedures are vital components of an enhanced safety performance, but what does top the agenda in dry bulk shipping? According to Capt. Panagiotis Nikiteas, Maran Dry Management Inc., HSQE Manager / DPA / CSO, COVID-19 and its aftermath have hit the industry.
“Crew changes, and restrictions have affected fatigue onboard and ashore. Wellbeing is also deteriorating, while security has not improved either, as West Africa is still a threat, while invisile cyber threats have to also be dealt with,” said Capt. Akshat Arora, Standard Club, Senior Surveyor, Loss Prevention, agreed with this perspective, adding that seafarers suffer from stress, fatigue, and frustration, all of which have negatively affected their happiness.
On his part, Dimitris Orfanos, M-MARITIME, HSQE Manager / DPA / CSO, said that the key challenge that dry bulk shipping faces today is the lack of drivers for safety, as many follow the minimum standards.
Lack of transparency on incident investigations is also a concern, while as causing more safety issues in bulk carriers.
As for John Prosilias, IRI/The Marshall Islands Registry, Deputy Technical Manager, the issue of not going the extra mile in safety is a key concern, which also gets worse by commercial pressures, COVID-19, and ports congestion.
Taking the above into consideration the panelists discussed on what need to be improved in order for the dry bulk sector to make progress safety-wise.
“Things have been improved, but not to the extend that we want. The most alarming is the fact that during the last four years, casualties have not decreased, believes Capt. Nikiteas, suggesting that in order to maker progress, shipping has to see the whole dynamics onboard a ship and not get fixated on standards.
Mr. Orfanos agreed with Captain Nikiteas, saying that while progress has been made, things should have been better. Some reasons for this are cargo misdeclaration, basic compliance issues, and welfare of crew are important issues. ‘’Shipping must understand that more paperwork is not the answer; the quality of process is more important.”, he stressed.
According to Capt. Arora, another reason why safety in the dry bulk sector has not advanced as much as it could, is because dry bulk is very fragmented, as there are many variation in standards, and many operators working on minimum compliance only.
Remaining on the topic of safety improvement, panelists dwelved into the safety paradox. This means that while shipping established more and more safety layers, it faces the problem of vanishing common sense.
In order to address this issue, Capt. Panagiotis Nikiteas, suggested “moving away from trying to implement road ruels, and see the dynamic of each situation, adjust to situations and find ways to succeed.”
The problem starts from superficial inspections. We start wrong and we miss the point. We build on the mistake by doing new procedures without taking account the working environment and the people onboard
…Mr. Orfanos said.
Furthermore, Capt. Akshat Arora emphasized a bit more on the fragmentation of the dry bulk sector, mentioning that it has to “come together and address the issues in a collaborative way.”
Improvements and best practices need to be shared
Of course, in order for best practices to be shared, proper communication is vital. For this reason, Mr. Prosilias stated that a top down effort should encourage crew to communicate with shore, and shore must listen to them.
Continuing with the discussion, the panelists talked about the benefits of DryBMS:
“DryBMS is a nice tool helping us to see what the customers want. It can help us adjust some procedures, but that’s it.’’ Capt. Nikiteas mentioned, with Mr. Orfanos adding that it can help the industry find out which companies focus more on safety and which not so. Nonetheless, he highlighted that the lack of direct rewards will make adoption slower.
Capt. Arora also stressed out the ability of DryBMS to help operators establish a roadmap far beyond minimum compliance, saying that “those left behind will need to get better.”
DryBMS is a self assessment system to improve safety. It is an additional vehicle to excellence, and will add commercial value to dry bulk operators, as well as encourage shipping companies to do more. But it will require more commitment and investment by shore and crew.
..Mr. Prosilias highlighted.
Nonetheless, despite the problems that dry bulk is facing, the panelists suggested best practices to improve safety culture.
“Currently, the level of integration, team work, positive reinforcement, and clear identification of accepted attitudes are of great concern. The efforts starts from top. We fail from the shore to create people who want to excel and pass through good practices,” said Capt. Nikiteas.
In turn, Mr. Orfanos recommended a more hands-on approach, noting that “If we give a number of what incidents cost to a company, that would be a best practice. Second, at the work level, we have to explain the cost and personal consequences, along with the problems everybody faces due to an incident.”
Good mentorship could also be an efficient solution, according to Capt. Arora. However, he warned that mentorship is lacking due to hectic schedule and issues of personal competence.
Finally, a great partner in enhancing safety is digitalization, which according to Capt. Nikiteas can help people make the right decision.
We have a lot to learn from other industries and academia, but we have to be reactive when implementing new technology
Furthermore, Mr. Orfanos noted that vessels in the dry bulk sector lack more advanced features, and could use the everyday data to “convert them into KPI’s to enhance safety.”
Another improvement that digitalization has brought is remote surveys. This can help protect seafarers, especially during enclosed space operations, according to Capt. Arora: “We can use drones to do tank inspections, and reduce enclosed space casualties.”
Finally, Mr. Prosilias added that bulkers can use data to analyze the ship’s operation and enhance safety.
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