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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Poseidon Challenge – channelling the passion for shipping into continuous improvement


What does it take to pursue the zero goals of the Poseidon Challenge – zero fatalities, zero pollution, zero detentions – asked Graham Westgarth, President of Teekay Marine Services and Vice-Chairman of INTERTANKO as he introduced the Poseidon Challenge session at INTERTANKO’s Tokyo Tanker Event last week?


His answers were uncompromisingly clear:

  • A clear understanding of risk management, some good tools, and individual and collective responsibilities.
  • An obsessive and sustained commitment to pursue best practices.
  • A willingness to embrace change.
  • A desire to learn from one’s mistakes.
  • Investment in time, energy and passion.


We need to turn our passion for shipping to a passion for continuous improvement,” said Westgarth in his rousing introduction. Responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Teekay fleet - in excess of 150 vessels, and close to 5,000 multi-disciplined sea and shore staff - his mandate includes newbuildings, conversions, repair and maintenance, manning and training, procurement, marine, and last but by no means least, health, safety, environment, and quality. He knows his subject and he is passionate about it.


He was joined on the panel by four senior industry representatives who are all passionate in different ways about their way of bringing about continuous improvement:

  • Richard Sadler, Chief Executive Officer, Lloyd’s Register.
  • Captain Hisaya Higuchi, Manager, Risk Management Team, Safety and Environmental Management Group, NYK Line.
  • Capt Howard Snaith, INTERTANKO’s Marine Director. 
  • Faz Peermohamed,  Partner and Head of Marine Casualty Team, Ince & Co.


Sadler distilled the essence of Westgarth’s points with a quote from Tom Peters who said, “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence, only in constant improvement and constant change.”


Sadler also referred to the fact that the shipping industry has its own particular difficulty in that it is not allowed to play by the same social rules as other industries. He pointed to difficulties over seafarer shore leave, and also to the airline pilot who, after successfully ditching his plane in the Hudson River, was hailed as a hero – imagine his reception if he had been a ship’s master ‘ditching’ a ship.


He underlined the significant benefits in moving beyond straight-forward compliance, and then emphasised that in major accidents, the bad decisions stemming from human error are not the fault of 1 or 2 men but of the whole culture. He quoted Isembard Brunel saying, “I am opposed to the laying down of regulation lest the improvement of progress tomorrow is shackled by the mistakes of today.


Higuchi challenged those present by pointing out that behind one serous accident lie 29 accidents, 300 so-called near misses and 3,000 unsafe acts/conditions which NYK calls ‘devils’. In 2008, NYK received 47,811 reports of so-called near-miss situations, up from 36,489 in 2007, 17,644 in 2006 and from as low as 1,310 in 2001. It is not that there are more ‘near misses’ now, but that NYK’s safety culture allows seafarers to feel comfortable in reporting them, he said, adding that such an advance is incredibly positive in terms of learning from one’s mistakes.


This left many delegates wondering how they could match that!


Peermohamed pointed to pollution incidents and ship detentions both being on the decrease – all part of the industry’s improvement -  and that the cause of an incident today tends to be

  • Lack of basic practical knowledge
  • Poor maintenance
  • Human errors
  • Reduced crews

all of which are human element-based and therefore able to be resolved by continuous improvement-based strategies.


He also suggested that criminalisation is a hindrance to achieving continuous improvement in that it is responsible for

  • Prejudice against and alienation of seafarers
  • Reduced retention/recruitment
  • Costly, lengthy court actions
  • Actions against shore staff


Speaking from the floor, Poseidon Challenge Vice Chairman Manolis Vordonis spoke about how passion, enthusiasm and commitment are by far the most important factors in achieving the zero goals of the Poseidon Challenge. He stressed how the symbolism of Poseidon can touch hearts and emotions and bring back to seafarers the traditional sea values and pride and dreams.


To view the presentations click below on the name:





Contact: Bill Box