Q1 Tell us few words about your company, what you do and where you focus?

Brookes Bell is a consultancy company dealing mainly with marine and offshore industries. We have been established in the market for a long time but in recent times we have expanded quite a lot. We have recruited highly qualified consultants to our seven offices worldwide with a lot of experience. Therefore, we now have a huge pool of expertise ranging from our master mariners to our engineers and scientists right way through to our naval architects, loss adjusters and fire investigators. These consultants are based strategically around the world which allows us to better meet the needs of our clients. Being located worldwide allows us to do that in a timely and cost effective management.

Q2 What are currently the safety challenges/ concerns in shipping from your perspective?

I will talk in regard to the safety carriage of cargoes. In terms of what we are doing regularly, there are certain cargoes that continue to have potential risks. When it comes to the safety of the vessel and crew onboard, liquefaction in cargoes remains a significant problem due to self-heating or under oxygen depleting cargoes, such as coal or agricultural products, which can give rise to potential problems or even fatal situations onboard a vessel.

Everyone is aware of the tough market conditions for the shipping sector; however, those also have an impact in terms of the safe carriage of cargoes. The economic conditions have forced different parties into markets that might be more risky and this has caused people to be more creative into finding ways to keep their vessels trading. Aside from that, they may be out of action for a period of time and during that time the regulations may change, so when they begin to export again it can be a bit different  in terms of the information they provide for their vessels under the global regulatory of the environment. Iran is the most recent example of reopening as an export market.  Freight rates change as well.  If freight rates had an impact, a cargo may suddenly become viable to transport by alternative means than that party was doing so before. For example, bulk carrier freight rates were so low that maybe something that was being shipped in containers now becomes valuable to ship it in bulk. But that doesn’t automatically mean that they can be safely carried in both methods of transport. There are different regulations for transport in containers versus bulk cargoes. All of those factors together basically create an environment whereby we have vessels potentially carrying cargoes that they were not used to carrying before or even carrying for the first time. We have exporter and shippers shipping cargoes that they haven’t done in this manner or they are doing for the first time after a period of time out of the market. Potentially, we have a distinct lack of information in relation to the safe carriage of the cargo or inappropriate or inaccurate information. Obviously, that situation presents the potential for dangerous and fatal conditions during voyage. In that context, we would always recommend expert advice as soon as it is possible. However, even if we are not entirely sure for example, whether loading a cargo for the first time could be a problem, it is important to us to provide advice to the operators in terms of whether this is an issue or not, what should be looking for and as far for more complicated situation, then that’s where we really think that we value as a company in terms of providing or applying our expertise in these situations to provide the best/ most reasonable resolution.

In terms of incentives, obviously ideally everyone will be working towards the safe carriage of cargoes, but whether or not that is a reality, it depends on the situation. If you consider liquefaction as an example, the ship-owners have the highest incentive as the lives of their crew could be at stake and that sharpens the focus very quickly. However, the parties may not consider that the masters concern this to be a real problem; ‘they have been doing this for years, they have never had an issue’ all these are their arguments.  Eventually, it is very difficult to say in reality whether those incentives are met.

In terms of regulation, there is a lot of regulation out there already for the acceptable safe carriage of cargoes, but my own view is that the human element demonstrates that there is always a risk of something happening and that’s why we still have incidents today.  All things concerned, best practice protocols can be important to minimize that risk of human error during loading or you could take even further steps in appointing an independent cargo superintendent that will supervise the loading and perhaps be more familiar with the cargo than the crew. Those can be ways around to minimize risk, but I am not sure whether they can remove the risk completely.

Q3 Are the existing safety regulations considered sufficient to prevent major incidents in the future? Should we expect more regulation, self-regulation or best practice developments?

I think we could expect more regulation as long as IMO and the other safety Committees continue to review the situation. Now, whether, that comes at the right time is a different question. But in terms of self-regulation unfortunately, it tends to take time. If we consider again liquefaction as an example, it is very unfortunate the fact that it has required a significant loss of life in order the industry to decide that this is an actual problem and we need to start planning measures. Surely, it is very difficult to say whether you can ever have an environment where that risk will be removed. We need to review every incident that happens in the industry and fortunately, there are sufficient panels and committees to take this responsibility.


Above text is an edited article of Nick Chapman, Associate Consulting Scientist, Brookes Bell video interview at Posidonia 2016, June 6-10, Metropolitan Expo, Athens

You may view his video interview by clicking here

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

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