Following a recent announcement from the ‘Enclosed Space Project’, we talked with Capt. Kuba Szymanski, Secretary General, InterManager who explained that currently, The Nautical Institute, ImarEST and InterManager are jointly running an Enclosed Space Competition, aimed at all maritime stakeholders would be willing to share their thoughts and ideas on how to improve the situation with enclosed spaces.
lthough we are seeing improvement with associated accidents, complex instructions, time pressure, poor design, poor communication and the prevailing blame culture are key factors for caution by the industry. In that regard, Capt. Szymanski highlights that is high time to stop blaming seafarers when an accident happens; instead of asking ‘how’, let’s start questioning about the reasons behind, ‘why’. What is more, professional insurance for seafarers would help to put an end to this mindset.
SAFETY4SEA: In light of shipping currently being at the heart of a humanitarian crisis, what are the key priorities of the Human Element Industry Group for the maritime industry?
Capt. Kuba Szymanski: The best person to answer this question should probably be Capt. John Lloyd, our Human Element Industry Group chairman. From my point of view, however as an active member of the HEIG, I would like to make following comments:
a/ Shipping is probably one of the best industries when it comes to dealing with Covid-19. Our people have not been let down. In these pretty challenging times we made sure that there is no crisis, that everyone can work, and work in almost regular conditions – almost, as we still have to work extra hours to comply with Covid-19 requirements and regulations.
b/ When compared with any other walk of life, shipping did manage to find solutions enabling our industry to serve fellow humans as best as we could. Our ships never stopped as we are acutely aware that No Shipping = no Shopping and that would indeed mean crisis!
c/ I would like to use this opportunity to thank all my fellow seafarers, superintendents, crew / personnel officers and any other shipping industry stake holders for getting together and collaborating with common goals in mind.
d/ As far as my priorities within the HEIG spectrum are concerned I am very pleased to report that the Enclosed Spaces sub-committee chaired by InterManager has been working very well and we are at the end of phase three, where all working groups are delivering their ‘outcomes’.
S4S: You have recently set up the ‘Enclosed Space Project’. What are the targets of this project? How does it aim to raise awareness about enclosed spaces risks?
Capt. K.Sz.: That is huge project indeed. Our committee decided to divide ourselves into several working groups: Regulations, Procedures, Time pressure, Technical solutions, Accident Statistics, Accident Investigations, Training. All these groups have been meeting regularly and we are just about to provide tangible ‘outcomes’. These will range from suggestions on how to improve IMO regulation, through work with other organisations responsible for their publication, which presently contradict each other resulting in confusion at sea and in some of the offices ashore. We also aim to publish industry Best Practice or produce sets of new guidelines.
As far as awareness of Enclosed Spaces is concerned we are pleased to advise that the Nautical Institute, ImarEST and InterManager are currently running an Enclosed Space Competition aimed at everyone and anyone who would be willing to share their thoughts and ideas on how to improve the situation with enclosed spaces. Entry details can be found here: https://www.intermanager.org/2022/01/help-us-to-save-lives/
S4S: Why accidents due to enclosed space entry still happen? What are the key lessons to learn from previous cases?
Capt. K.Sz.: The latest reported accident took place in 2021 and we are seeing improvement. However every fatal accident is one accident too many.
Key lessons as advised by seafarers are:
- Too many confusing instructions
- Time pressure
- Poor design of spaces entered – not designed for human beings as a working space
- Poor communication between parties involved
- Blame Culture
S4S: Are you satisfied with the industry’s response on the issue of enclosed spaces onboard until today? Is there a need for more regulation towards?
Capt. K.Sz.: Yes I am very satisfied with our industry’s response. I am absolutely delighted with the outcome provided by our working groups. There are some areas such as Time Pressure, Technical Solution, and Regulations which made very good progress thanks to great collaboration from many parties. There are however other areas such as accident statistics where we enjoy less cooperation between different stake holders. Unfortunately our industry suffers from a terrible blame culture which inhibits cooperation and sharing of information. Definitely we do NOT need more regulations. If anything we need less of them. Those which are to remain with us should be clearer, shorter and human centric!
S4S: In your view, has the industry been successful in implementing safety culture? What should be our key priorities for strengthening safety culture onboard and ashore?
Capt. K.Sz.: Absolutely not. The shipping industry is strongly still in the medieval times where blame flourished. We can see a ‘reality check’ provided everyday by accidents and incidents. If we can see the same occurrence 3-4-5 – n times that means that we are not learning from accidents. Why we are not learning? Because the industry is focused on making sure there is someone guilty. Guilt means ‘negligence’ and negligence means that the ship owner is fully insured. I would love to see serious discussion among all stake holders who would take care of this issue. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Air industry made a “big shift” and we would be hard pushed to find the same accident happening there twice. I am impressed how BLAME CULTURE has been eradicated from the air industry.
S4S: If you could change one thing that would have an either profound or immediate impact on the safety performance across the industry, what this one thing would it be and why?
Capt. K.Sz.: Provide professional insurance for seafarers. This would allow lawyers to fight the seafarers’ corner. This would put an end to the ‘blame culture’. I would hope that all of us in our lovely industry would start working together with one aim – improving our working environment.
S4S: Do you have any developments/ projects / plans that you would like to share with the rest of the industry?
Capt. K.Sz.: InterManager works tirelessly on behalf of our members, our sector and the wider industry. Particular projects that we are focused on at present are Lifeboat Safety, Ship Management Standards and Principles of operation, and the Adopt a Ship scheme. I think the one of the best things the shipping industry could do is to improve its image with the general public who ought to understand better what seafarers do and how shipping fits into the supply chain – without shipping there would be far less online shopping!
S4S: What is your key message for the industry stakeholders to move forward, to better learn from previous accidents and ensure enhanced safety onboard?
Capt. K.Sz.: Stop Blaming us – seafarers. If any accident happens let us ask the right questions – not just how but why? What can we do next time to make sure that systems are so good that we don’t need to relay on human beings to be the last line of defence?
The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.