SAFETY4SEA: Tell us a few words about Marshall Islands Registry; In terms of Hellenic-based clients, how did the Registry perform? Which have been the main initiatives from the Marshall Islands Registry this year?
Theo Xenakoudis: According to a report of the Greek Shipping Corporation Committee together with the Fairplay IHS, published in April 2018, the Marshall Islands still maintains the largest position in terms of foreign flags in the Greek market next to the Greek flag which is the largest flag in terms of their weight. The Marshall Islands still maintains the biggest share in terms of ships and then the following flags are Liberia, Malta, Panama, Bahamas and the other flags are following. We have a very strong office in the Greek market with more than 45 people performing right now and we offer all kinds of services that a registry can offer in a foreign country. We register ships, mortgages, we issue documents for ships and crew, we offer technical advice and we are monitoring the quality and safety performance of Greek and non-Greek vessels sailing in the Mediterranean waters.
SAFETY4SEA: Do you have any new developments that you would like to share with the rest of the industry?
Bill Gallagher: One recent development is our new office in Busan, making it 28 offices worldwide. Again, we’re building our worldwide coverage and our decentralization model. For instance, in Piraeus we have a staff of 45 people, because this is our largest market, and we want to localize the registry as much as possible. In addition, one recent development is our focus on LNG due to the interest in LNG fuels; we have a lot ex-LNG Masters working for the Registry, who form our LNG group and because of the interest and our expertise, we want to bring that forth to the industry as a flag State. The Marshall Islands Registry has the largest LNG fleet in the world, so that’s important to us. We also have an innovation team as well on the marine safety side.
John Ramage: Also, LNG and LPG are both being seen as alternative fuels for vessel propulsion. That is another thing that we are becoming involved in both in the storage tanks on board the ship, for fuel tanks, as well as LNG and LPG as a cargo. For these issues it is important to have experts who can really understand how they work.
Brian Poskaitis: We have taken some of our key safety personnel out of normal day-to-day operations to focus on strategic items that we will work with our crews and operators and owners and all our ship owners to help improve performance, safety and quality.
SAFETY4SEA: It is 30 years since the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster hastened the introduction of the ISM Code. Do you consider the implementation of the Code by the shipping industry to have been successful?
Brian Poskaitis: In one word I would say yes, since that disaster. But the one thing that I would like to highlight is there is always more room for improvement. One of the things that we have recognized as a registry is that it’s not enough just about having an ISM Certificate on board your ship; it’s about real implementation of the ISM Code and what’s behind that Code. Therefore, we are focusing on real time implementation and how we can better assist owners and operators in improving their performance.
SAFETY4SEA: Has the industry been successful in implementing safety culture? What should be our key priorities for strengthening safety culture onboard and ashore?
Brian Poskaitis: The crew onboard remains a key priority. Considering that the crew members are the most important factors for safety onboard the ships, our focus is on how we can better influence their behavior onboard, as well as on how we can assist the owners and operators to have better crews operating on the ships to improve performance.
John Ramage: Safety is a state of mind, not just a box ticking exercise, and that can only come from the top of the company down. It’s very important that new entrants are all aware of the safety culture within the company so that as they progress within that company, that culture of safety stays with the individual.
SAFETY4SEA: What will the biggest safety/green challenges up to 2020? How these will affect the industry and how are you prepared to face them?
Nicholas Makar: I think that the real challenge is ensuring that there is an appropriate balance between safety and environmental protection measures. The 2020 fuel sulphur cap is a good example of this; when undertaking a measure to improve environmental performance, we must ensure there is no consequence or negative impact on ship safety or safety to the personnel onboard the ships. One of the things we are doing to address this is by working with other industry stakeholders to ensure that all of these issues are brought to the forefront so that they are appropriately considered when undertaking decisions on such measures.
SAFETY4SEA: What is your wish list for the industry and/or regulators and parties involved in order to minimize the impact of the uniform global deadline of 2020?
Nicholas Makar: Looking at the 2020 sulphur cap, our first wish is to ensure that there is a pragmatic approach towards not only implementation, but verification of compliance. This is one of the things we are looking to address in measures that the IMO is working on at the moment. It’s also important that when situations do occur, that there is appropriate communication between all stakeholders involved and not just between the shipowners and its registry, but also communication between the administrations themselves, port State control authorities and flag State authorities.
Theo Xenakoudis: I would like to highlight that in this regard, we have the strongest and most efficient team of any other major flag. We have people from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Far East that they are attending the IMO sessions, both MEPC and MSC. We also have a very close relationship with the industry and we try to feel the expectations of our owners and the stakeholders. In this regard, the Marshall Islands was the first to present a paper for the low sulphur emissions and the transition period in 2020, and that will be discussed at the next Intersessional Working Group in the IMO. This is an example of an initiative the Marshall Islands took in regards to the safety of our ships.
SAFETY4SEA: What could drive the distortion of the level playing field with respect to uniform global compliance with the 2020 sulphur cap?
Nicholas Makar: Our view is that uniform enforcement and uniform compliance are needed in order to avoid these distortions. It mainly relates to the cost associated for compliance. Ensuring a consistent and effective implementation will prevent any sort of distortions.
SAFETY4SEA: What is your organization doing differently in order to prepare for a more sustainable future?
John Ramage: What we are trying to do is keep the same values but improve on how we are actually implementing those values. Our values of safety and quality and environmental awareness are really unchanging. New things come in but they are the basic tenants of the industry and we are constantly looking for new ways to try and improve those.
Bill Gallagher: I think we have to continue to hire people worldwide in our offices that have the power and authority to make decisions on behalf of the Registry in real time. That is very important for owners, operators and also from the safety perspective.
SAFETY4SEA: If you could change one thing about the shipping industry, what would it be and why?
Bill Gallagher: One thing in the industry we would change is getting away from looking at the cost, because sometimes it’s not about the money. Sometimes you have to spend the money to ensure that you have the right resources to promote safety and environmental protection and security on vessels. The cost consciousness sometimes gets a little bit overblown; unfortunately, shipping is expensive, therefore, sometimes, you have to spend a little bit of money and invest the resources.
John Ramage: It is more a proper allocation of resources to the best effect and to make sure that you identify the key issues needed to run a ship safely, properly, and environmentally safe.
Theofilos Xenakoudis: One thing I would like to see is better cooperation between different bodies in our industry. The shipping world is huge and sometimes fragmented as well, so we need to make sure that everybody is on the same page, so the IMO can regulate better and have more efficient regulations for ship owners.
SAFETY4SEA: What should be the top priorities for the shipping industry stakeholders towards a more sustainable future for the shipping industry? What is your key message?
John Ramage: The world is becoming a lot more environmentally sensitive and the shipping industry will be affected as all other industries are. In the long term there will be a reduction in sulphur and carbon, so ultimately we may see in the next 10-15 years, a complete change in vessel propulsion. Maybe we are seeing the end of an internal combustion engine. But I think vessel propulsion will change in the future.
Bill Gallagher: To look at the future you should always look to the past first. One thing about our industry is we are our own worst critics. If you look what we have done from an environmental standpoint, we have made huge strides from 20 years ago. Vessels are being run in a much more environmentally friendly fashion, and we have to build upon that into the future. But we have made great strides and we should congratulate ourselves about this achievement.
Above article is an edited version of IRI‘s video interview with SAFETY4SEA, at Posidonia 2018, June 4-8, Metropolitan Expo, Athens, Greece.
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.
View here below our interview with the IRI Team: Mr. Bill Gallagher, President; Mr. Nicholas Makar, Regulatory Affairs Advisor; Mr. Brian Poskaitis, Senior Vice President, Fleet Operations; Mr. John Ramage, Chief Operating Officer; and Mr. Theo Xenakoudis, Director, Worldwide Business Operations.