During Posidonia exhibition in Athens earlier this month, Rear Adm. John Nadeau from US Coast Guard shared his remarks to a group of young maritime professionals and junior seafarers on the next chapter of shipping and the impacts of digitalization and the role of safety management systems. As ships are becoming more technologically complex, USCG sees both challenges and windows of opportunity, Mr. Nadeau noted.
We all must think about the implications of this ever-changing industry. The connected ship may streamline inspections and maintenance requirements, and it may help the ship operate more efficiently and with a reduced carbon footprint. It may allow for the transfer of some responsibilities to shore, reducing manning requirements. Regardless, it will require companies to think about their business and operations in new ways.
New technologies, Mr. Nadeau added, may also require change in the way of thinking. As the industry is seeking to open windows for these advancements, it may have to turn attention away from the proscriptive regulations of the past and lean more heavily on safety management systems as a means to address risk. “For this to happen, the industry must continue to promote a strong culture of safety,” he said.
With this in mind, SMS will be a compliance focus for the Coast Guard in the coming years, and we are currently working on policy that will help companies develop and implement effective safety management system solutions for this rapidly changing future.
At this point, he stressed the need for an international cooperation between US and the IMO member states. “One recent example of this was our push to require companies to address cyber vulnerabilities in their SMS by January of 2021.”
Concluding, Mr. Nadeau pointed out that change is inevitable and constant and the pace of this change is increasing. In this respect, he emphasized on the importance of the adaptation of the regulation to this change.
On a smaller scale, just consider the cell phone you have in your pocket or bag right now, compared to five years ago. Even that technology will be obsolete five years from now. Our regulatory regimes must evolve to meet this pace of change. We are diligently working to reduce compliance costs without diminishing safety. We are always mindful of our need to safely facilitate commerce, and not impede it.