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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Round Table Forum calls for continuous improvement from the shipping industry

“We are committed to continuous improvement,” said INTERTANKO Chairman Stephen Van Dyck to 60 senior executives at this week’s Round Table Forum at the RAC Club in London.

Calling for commitment, collaboration, cooperation and coordination, Van Dyck, who is Chairman of Maritrans and also of the West of England P&I Club, believes that every link in the chain of responsibility also has its individual role to play in achieving continuous improvement.

He focused on one particular link, the P&I Clubs, and emphasised that although a P&I certificate is a license to trade, it is based on the presumption of good intent, trust, risk sharing and responsible operation, and there will be poorly maintained or managed ships that will continue to trade because every link in the chain is not performing well enough. “We need to put pressure on every link in the chain to be serious and aggressive about continuous improvement and about living up to its responsibilities,” he said, calling for concrete and substantive proposals for improvement NOW.

Speakers from the floor responded with calls for a performance index for the chain, for information sharing, for the need to rise above the minimum compliance culture, for an audit or self-evaluation process, for more near-miss reporting. One called the chain of responsibility a tangled web of duplication and omission. Other remarks stressed the need for the regulators to assist with ensuring that information sharing to advance safety does not fall foul of competition laws. The overall feeling was positive, ending with a call to convert what had been said during the session into executive action and change. “If you do what you did, you’re going to get what you got,” concluded Van Dyck.

The Forum’s second paper on the uniformity of maritime law and the industry’s input was given by Patrick Griggs, former President of Comité Maritime International. He stressed that we need a level playing field – that of uniformity. He also stressed the way that maritime law has traditionally been put together with input from shipowners, merchants, underwriters, average adjusters and other interested parties, as well as input from maritime law associations about their national laws. This approach does not include input from civil servants and government representatives, he added, demonstrating that a draft maritime law instrument “should come from the grass roots of the industry”.

An instrument to satisfy political need is a different animal from an instrument to satisfy industry needs, he continued, with instruments “drafted in a void” (i.e. neither looking at national maritime law, nor by consultation with the industry) tending to take much longer to come to fruition. The end result, driven by over-reaction by politicians and by ill-informed public opinion, frequently undermines the global legal regime, he said.

Even the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a governmental organisation and therefore politically driven or motivated, he added. In discussion and debate, national delegates have the opportunity to speak first and by the time the non-government organisations (NGOs) get to speak, he believes that many minds are already made up.

So how can the industry regain the initiative? It needs to be more proactive and less reactive, said Griggs, getting close to the IMO Secretariat and identifying future areas of legal activity.

Contact: Bill Box