New User Guide for ISM familiarization and implementation

The time has come for shipping companies to take further steps in the processes of implementation and familiarization to make the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and Pollution Prevention (ISM Code) fully effective. Ship managers, because they fail or succeed according to their operational standards, generally follow work practices that embody the spirit of the ISM Code and have done so for many years. So although the implementation of the ISM Code has made little difference in terms of day-to-day operation, nevertheless discernible benefits have accrued since it came into force.

One benefit brought by ISM is the wide exposure to the auditing process by systems choosing many diverse locations for the performance of the audits Another is the realization by employees that the ISM Code is now law. Rapid communication from ships on any activity falling outside acceptable limits is now the norm. Further, ISM has brought increased evidence and an independent view of how well ships are being operated. It has also enabled the industry to tidy up and provide a better structure to existing documentation. Additionally, the system ensures that the question of liability is given greater transparency. The most notable benefit has been the degree of involvement of the sea staff in promoting the system's improvement.

Ship operators across the board have applauded the introduction of the ISM regime and its formalizing of responsibilities for each participant involved in maritime safety. But many people are still left in doubt as to how far their field of responsibility extends. How far do they understand the implementation of a more broad-based and properly structured company management system? People must be given a better chance to get the regime to function to the maximum effect, and to realize that it works in their own interests.

‘Safety and Health at Sea’ is a new manual designed for mariners, written by Arne Sagen and Pat Mitchell, and published by Witherby & Co. (ISBN 1 85609 233 X. Tel+ 44 (0)207 251 5341, Fax +44 (0)207 251 1296, Email: books@witherbys.co.uk. Price £30.00). The manual places emphasis on the people actually doing the work onboard, as a “bottom up” approach with better support for those yielding commitments from the top.

This practical manual for seafarers is a genuinely useful book that shows clearly how seafarers are part of the process of making ship operation safer and life onboard healthier. It provides a guide to the necessary culture of improved and dynamic safety, how safety management can be systematic, proactive and full of common sense. The Manual provides a comprehensive check list outlining the nature of common accidents, injuries and illness. Those charged with the task of training ships’ personnel in safety, and who would like to improve on their presentations have a lot to gain by utilizing the manual. With due recognition for the manual, the Class societies’ ISM certification business should also contribute to improving the effectiveness of the ISM Code system, primarily because the auditing process is about people and their behaviour.