The new SIRE 2.0 regime by OCIMF is expected to become operational in 2022. In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Mr David Savage, who was responsible for the development and introduction of the SIRE Inspector Accreditation Programme back in 2000, shares his experience and outlines the key challenges associated with the new program which will incorporate the human element, marking a new era in the inspection program.
he most exciting and positive prospect with the new programme is that it is risk-based, comments Mr. Savage who expects the focus on human element with SIRE 2.0 to ensure inspectors are sensitive to all pressures onboard.
SAFETY4SEA: What changes should we expect to see in the market with the implementation of SIRE 2.0?
David Savage: As has been the case following each new SIRE VIQ edition since 1997, I wouldn’t expect that the introduction of SIRE2 will have any impact on the market. If charterers and Operators use the new system to best effect however, SIRE2 offers great opportunities to reduce damage costs/claims, enhance safety, identify weaknesses, reduce accidents and pollution incidents. Much detail is still not revealed by OCIMF, but one thing is already certain. The SIRE2 changes will involve a lot of additional work and a significant amount of learning for inspectors, crews, and Operators. As I understand it, the core question set will used for every inspection. This will be coupled with questions determined by a perceived-risk algorithm, plus additional questions to be set periodically for concentrated campaigns. The duration of an inspection is intended to be approximately eight hours as opposed to the eight-to-ten hours currently required. Given the degree of interviewing involved, however, this might be expected to be significantly more.
S4S: How has the human element been incorporated to the SIRE 2.0?
D.S.: Much of SIRE2 deals with process and focuses on human performance. Fifty-three SIRE2 core questions commence with the words “Were the Master/officers/ratings familiar with…” and four questions commence with “Were the chief engineer and engineering officers…”. If the inspector is to properly satisfy him/herself that the familiarity is satisfactory, then much of the available inspection time will be spent interviewing those involved. Inspectors are required to report for each applicable question, information as to whether the human activities on board meet the expectations of the question. Physical, psychological, and social factors relating to equipment, processes, and personnel all must be taken into account. These are very demanding, and time-consuming requirements if addressed seriously and inspectors must be competent to deal with them. OCIMF are reported to be currently running five-day SIRE2 training courses for inspectors which include one and a half days dedicated to the human element.
S4S: What are the key challenges with the new SIRE and what needs to be considered with regards to TMSA elements?
D.S.: The scope of the SIRE2 question sets and their accompanying guidance is vast. In total there are 329 core questions (not including campaign questions) and these, together with the inspector guidance fill 1052 A4 pages. (Not including Chapters 1 and 11). With such a demand on process as stated above, the ability for an inspector to adequately address these in the eight hours inspection time permitted is likely to be challenging. Mapping the SIRE2 questions to the TMSA3 elements is a very welcome inclusion. This will permit Operators to analyse the detailed reports now that the measuring tool (SIRE2) is formally linked to the management tool (TMSA3). Analysis of report results can be made together with associated TMSA3 elements and to the SMS as well. This will identify hot spots, TMSA and SMS shortcomings, and initiate prompt remedial action. Doing this in real time will deliver a dynamic and detailed sitrep across the entire fleet and initiate appropriate actions without delay.
S4S: How could mental health and other human factor issues be effectively embedded into the new inspection reporting and what are the associated challenges?
D.S.: Seafarers, particularly ratings, are understandably stressed when quizzed by a SIRE inspector, particularly when they don’t share the same native language. This could be even greater with SIRE2 when inspectors themselves are under time pressures to respond to the many questions that demand them to look for evidence that the seafarer knows how to operate equipment and understand the Operator’s policies etc. This is likely to be very challenging to the seafarer and time consuming for the inspector.
S4S: What do you think will be the biggest challenges for both shipping companies and seafarers onboard when the SIRE 2.0 becomes operational?
D.S.: The additional workload that comes with SIRE2 will impact both ship and shore staff, at least during the start-up months until familiarity and routines are established. Having available the many documents that an inspector will require to sight or observe being used, will be very time-consuming. As stated above, it will be challenging to conduct a thorough inspection within eight hours.
S4S: What’s your advice to both shipping companies and seafarers onboard with regards to pre-inspection preparation?
D.S.: Approximately thirty-five photographs are required to be taken by the vessel and uploaded to SIRE. Evidently, it isn’t expected that new sets must be submitted prior to each inspection, but the photos obviously must represent the current appearance of the equipment/location involved. These will be provided to the attending inspector prior to the inspection, along with the pre-inspection questionnaire responses, PSC and navigation assessments submitted by the Operator. Preparation and submission of the photos, certificates and responding to the pre inspection questionnaire will add to the workload, both by the ship’s staff and those in the office. It might be advisable to take and submit updated photos (for example in the case of draft and hull markings) whenever the opportunity permits, even though no immediate inspection is planned.
S4S: Given the approx. 20 years of TMSA should we be satisfied with the safety performance of the tanker sector so far?
D.S.: I’d say that the industry should be more than satisfied with the safety performance since the grounding of Exxon Valdez and OPA 90 that led to SIRE. The achievements of SIRE since it was launched in 1993 and TMSA in 2024 are tremendous. A glance at the ITOPF performance graph of tanker spills shows that the pollution incidents from tanker spills in the 2010’s were one tenth of what they were in the 1980’s. Last year, approximately 1,000 tonnes were spilled. The same quantity was spilled in 2012 and 2019. ITOPF reports that this was lowest annual figure recorded in the last five decades. OCIMF states that SIRE2 was needed because the current programme had reached a plateau. Since the new programme focusses so much on the human element, there is pressure on inspectors to identify and report objectively on human performance and observed weaknesses. It is very much to be hoped that OCIMF’s inspector training programme to deal with the human element will ensure that inspectors are very sensitive to the pressures that seafarers are under.
The most exciting and positive prospect with the new programme is that it is risk-based. Since SIRE was first introduced, the industry has been obsessed on counting the number of Observations contained in a report. Although often a meaningless measure, this delivers a simple-to-measure result. When we launched Oceanfile in 2012, we followed the risk-based approach. Reports use the Potential Risk result (a weighting applied by some oil companies to adjust the risk value associated with each VIQ question). The Potential Risk is adjusted to make an Assessed Risk value derived from the words of the inspector’s observations. A Final likelihood/consequence risk value is obtained by considering the Operator’s Preventative Actions. SIRE2 aligns to this.
S4S: In your view, what needs to be addressed to drive change?
D.S.: SIRE2 reports will deliver results that contain far more granular detail that permits highly detailed analysis. Observations are set out in a meaningful and comparable context. If Operators take advantage of this, root-cause analysis has a great potential to deliver major improvements in fleet performance. The enhanced risk assessment that comes with SIRE2 will further improve confidence to oil company charterers using auto-vetting systems and, if they use it properly, to tanker Operators as well.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.