The challenges faced by operators at present, mainly surround full integration of changes into the working processes of their fleet, the key element to success being stakeholder buy-in. Travelling to visit our members and talking about such matters over the last ten years has led to one question being asked of me more often than any other; “How do we get our officers and crew to buy-in to our SMS and follow the prescribed procedures?”
There is an old expression “nothing worth having is for free” and all too often that expression is transferrable across all subjects. We talk about ‘buy-in’ and ‘doing good things’, but the key stakeholder is the mariner on-board ship; who needs to find the motivation within themselves to believe in the procedures and perform a role in improving procedures that are incorrect or inadequate. We cannot simply ‘talk’ opposing forces of good ideas and aspirations into submission from a distance, we need to identify the key stakeholders who truly control whether something does or does not ultimately succeed. In the shipping industry invariably it is the much maligned seafarer who holds the key.
I can relate a very recent positive experience from late 2019 as an example of how one of our members took a very positive step to enhance procedural ‘buy-in’ and simultaneously manage change in the form of the now in force Low Sulphur 2020 requirements.
Shipping industry needs to develop and maintain effective management of change policies to meet new requirements
Our member, a large container ship operator; arranges periodic residential officer training events near their corporate/management base in Northern Europe. The London P&I Club were invited to speak on the subject of Low Sulphur 2020 along with other industry guest speakers, in an effort to broaden the scope of the sessions. The Club were delighted to present on the subject and address specific questions from the audience of senior deck and engineer officers. However, it was in the informal workshop group meetings that most benefits seemed to be gained. Each meeting was chaired by a senior member of office staff, but most importantly the ship’s officers were invited to raise their questions and concerns, marking them up on a white board, the session only being concluded when satisfactory conclusions had been reached to all concerns.
The benefits of these sessions were significant. The officers we made to feel (quite correctly) that their concerns and issues were of importance to the overall operation. The concerns were addressed and they left the sessions with a far clearer picture of the subject and their role in it. However, there was a key message that I believe will have been of great importance and much appreciated by the seafarers, the corporate positon on the importance of Low Sulphur 2020 was stated unequivocally and the message that the entire organisation was in it together, both afloat and ashore can have left no seafarer feeling that they are left to carry the issues alone. From the opposite angle, the shore managers were open to suggestion and opinion from the seafarers, resulting in an all-round benefit.
Further opportunities at the event to discuss and contribute to presentations/meetings on the subject of future developments and integration of engineering solutions, again bring the all too remote seafarers right into the heart of the wider organisation, contributing to its future. It is not difficult to imagine that operators who take such an approach have a high potential for success.
Being a residential course the evening meal was a not only a chance to enjoy an excellent meal in good company, but with no guidance whatsoever tables soon became full of good natured banter and conversation between shore and office staff about the day to day matters affecting their worlds, promoting a better understand an empathy between ship and shore.
These senior officers were on leave; and were in the most part likely to be on-board ships at/around the turn of the New Year, a key time for the upcoming change over. The owners were ensuring that there was an even distribution of senior staff on-board across the fleet, who had attended this event at the key time and the focal date for the implementation of Low Sulphur 2020.
Robust Management of change policies have been ‘the order of the day’ in the tanker and cruise sector for some time and often well in advance of the dry sector. However, as time moves on and industry wide changes are imposed without tiered application over a number of years, all sectors of the industry need to develop and maintain effective management of change policies to meet those requirements. Those who supplement such policies with additional investment in initiatives such as those I describe here, ought to in my estimation be more likely to achieve their aims.
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.
Carl Durow, Loss Prevention Manager, London P&I Club
Carl Durow is a Master Mariner with working experience of LPG, LNG, Crude Oil, Deep Water Anchor Handling operations and Offshore Marine Support. A qualified Senior Dynamic Positioning Operator finishing his sea going career on Seismic Survey vessels, Carl holds a BSc (Hons) Degree in Maritime Studies. He currently holds the position of Loss Prevention Manager at the London P&I Club.