The ISM Code offers a systems approach to facilitate the management of ship-board safety and pollution prevention. It lays down systems of work involving assessment and control of risk along with self-checking and self-critical measures for the purposes of verifying and improving its performance. However, its effectiveness has been the subject of much debate.
Previous studies based on Port State Control deficiencies and marine insurance claims and surveys using user perception failed to establish a clear causal relationship. Yet, everyone appears to believe that the Code can improve the industry’s standards and to be keen to see it realised.
The obvious question thus is: ‘what is preventing the Code from reaching its potential?’
Naval Architecture has been described as the second oldest profession in the world, with early boats preceding the invention of the wheel, and vessels sailing in the open ocean more than 5000 years ago. Vessel design continued to be based on wooden construction and sail propulsion, until the mid 19th century. The design of these vessels was based largely on the experience and intuition of the naval architect. Following the industrial revolution and due to the outstanding work of many pioneers including William Froude and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the modern science of naval architecture was established. The basic methodologies established for hull design, resistance prediction, propulsion, stability and structural strength have changed little in principle.
In the 20th century a practising naval architect needed to be a well-rounded engineer with the ability to apply physics and maths to the design of ever larger structures moving at higher speeds in the difficult interface between the atmosphere and the sea. Few, if any, aids existed to simplify the computations and drawings which the naval architect must make. A deep understanding of principals and an experienced “feel” for the strength, durability and safety of the floating structures he designed were vital to the successful practitioner.
Following the advent of the digital computer, and more recently a huge increase in processor speed on desktop computers the ability of the naval architect to carry out ever more complex computations has increased perhaps a thousand fold. CFD(computational fluid dynamics), seakeeping calculations, FEA(finite element analysis) and wealth of other software based tools enables the naval architect to complete complex analyses in a few weeks where previously years would have been required to carry out calculations in this depth.
The necessity of this level of analysis for some of today’s very large and complex vessels is beyond doubt, but the availability of low cost desktop computer packages for most of these analyses has lead to their use on quite small and simple vessels where their applicability is questionable.
There are two main drivers for this proliferation of analysis; the first is that the analysis is being undertaken simply because it is possible. There is a perception that using these analysis tools an “optimised” or “better” vessel will result; second is an increasing concern on the part of operators and shipyards with possible litigation from the operation of commercial vessels due to vessel damage, loss of life, pollution, etc. This is leading many owners to specify an increased level of technical analysis in their build tenders. Some of these design requirements now involve analysis which would not previously have been contemplated, and this is especially true for the design of smaller vessels under 50m in length. FEA, fatigue analysis and noise and vibration analysis may be routinely requested.
This trend means that the majority of naval architects have to become more specialised in sub-disciplines, and few are able to appreciate the total ship design problem. There is a danger that a design job becomes modular in nature and common sense solutions to overall design questions may be missed. It is interesting to note that the SS United States, one of the largest liners ever built and capable of top speeds of around 40 knots, was designed more than 50 years ago without any of these modern analysis tools. The same is true in the aerospace industry, with rockets and vehicles such as Concorde designed before the age of application of the modern digital computer.
There is a significant danger that naval architects will lose some of their capability to design. The whole process is becoming a little remote with practising naval architects using tools which use processes and equations about which he may know little or nothing. One example of this is the use of the new harmonised damage stability regulations, which use probabilistic methods and are only realistically amenable to calculations using a software package. A naval architect using such a package will find it difficult to judge whether the resulting Stability Index makes sense; whereas under the old deterministic methods, a visualisation of the ship in various flooded conditions was available, and sanity checks easily made. The problem is further compounded by the fact that different packages may give different results. It is of course true that the old deterministic methods were also much easier to solve using a digital computer, but at least the process could be clearly understood and the results judged. The same cannot be said for the probabilistic methods, and we are now using these methods because computers allow us to, but is it desirable? There is then a danger that naval architects will loose touch with the science (and perhaps the art) of the profession. The modern naval architect given two hull forms and all the information about their shape, coefficients, surface areas, etc and asked to compare them will probably reach for the nearest software package. Not so long ago, a naval architect with his knowledge of the fitness of various coefficients and ratios for hull displacements and speeds, and an understanding of the shape of the sectional area curve and stern form could probably have made these judgements based on his education and experience. Should we be concerned that some of this understanding of this subject may be lost? I think so.
The ever upward trend in world trade, the desire for greater efficiency and eco-friendliness, requirements for speed and diversity in naval vessels caused by the changing nature of world warfare, all point to a significantly interesting period in naval architecture during the next decade. It would be a pity if opportunities for inspirational and innovative design are lost in a welter of analysis. “A good design” is one that exceeds the owners expectations. Priorities will be that it meets his specification, is safe to operate, provides comfort and habitability for crew and passengers, meets environmental regulations and concerns, and meets the relevant regulations of class, international and national authorities. Meeting the regulations is a question of diligence in assuring that all relevant rules are adhered to, and will produce a vessel with features that comply to an international consensus, but is not necessarily a good design. Comfort and habitability is of increasing concern, and is indicative of the realisation of the importance of quality of life to a seafarer to a successful operation. There is no doubt that good ship motions and well planned ship accommodation are features of a good design. Increasing use of safety case analysis and failure mode and effect analysis in ship design significantly enhance ship safety and is surely a better approach than the previous prescriptive and sometimes arbitrary safety rules. The most important aspect and probably the most difficult is that in providing the shipowner with a vessel that exceeds his expectations as regards specification. His requirements will include speed, deadweight and fuel consumption and also sea kindliness, maintainability, manoeuvrability, and reliability. These are the difficult and challenging areas for the naval architect, and are also the areas where design skills may be lost due to increasing reliance on software based design.
It is a final goal for a ship designer to deliver the vessel with which the owner is fully satisfied. For his satisfaction, what are the most critical requirements for commercial vessels such as oil tankers, bulkers, container ships, gas carriers and so on? Maximum cargo carrying capacity, high service speed, economical fuel oil consumption, robust structure, easy maintenance…In addition to these, comfort in accommodation - noise and vibration, for example - is one of his important concerns, considering crews’ habitability and working conditions.
Referring to design criteria, capacity, speed, strength etc. are all scientific and objective. Meanwhile, criteria on noise and vibration have a very subjective nature, which involves many human elements. In case of objective criteria, theoretical analysis is most helpful.
For the issue which involves human elements, analysis alone may not be adequate to satisfy the criteria and actual experiences play an important role as well.
The shipmaster is entrusted with the overriding authority and responsibility for the safety and security of the ship. Poor decisions made by a shipmaster could result in damage to the ship and its cargo, pollution of the marine environment, and/or loss of lives. Such incidents could, in addition to legal sanctions, tarnish the reputation and impact the overall business of the company.
It is therefore important for a shipmaster to be not only technically competent but also to possess the leadership and managerial abilities to effectively lead his crew and run the ship.
To this end, various companies and reputed training institutes has introduced the Command Assessment Programme (CAP), a voluntary programme, which can be used by shipping companies to assess some of the leadership competencies, such as decision-making, team management, culture-building and emotional stability – all of which are important for effective performance as a shipmaster. It is used by companies to groom chief mates to take over command and to build the confidence of newly promoted masters.
Ship systems are protected by strict design standards and tolerances, by redundancy - particularly for critical systems - and by feedback processes that will ultimately activate an alarm of some sort, or take corrective action.
Their efficiency and reliability will be undermined if they are not correctly set up, regularly monitored or properly maintained; these are tasks that, for the most part, have to be undertaken by the human element of any such system -that is, the seafarer.
It is the technological revolution that has changed the way in which people and systems interact with other people and/or systems. In the maritime industry, the human element of the human-machine/system interface is becoming an endangered species, partly because of the drive towards smaller crew numbers, but largely due to increasing automation.
Internal audit is an important part of the effectiveness of a Company’s Safety Management System, but even today it has been misunderstood both by Ship and Office Personnel.
Internal audits provide a number of important services to Company management. These include detecting and preventing deficiencies which can result to an incident or an accident, testing internal control, and monitoring compliance with Company’s policy and safety procedures.
Establishing an internal audit function provides a vital step in the growth of the Company and it’s Fleet.
One of the fundamental human skills needed by those working in the maritime industry is that of changing mindsets.
At the core of Human Factors is the move away from blaming the personnel whose actions ultimately triggered the incident/accident. This change of mindset is potentially the most important skill to develop. Blaming and firing an individual(s) does not solve the problem.
It may be viewed as being quick, efficient and convenient, but the root causes are still there, on the surface or deeply buried away, forgotten or not known about. Changing mindsets also include viewing the human not as weak, unreliable, lazy and reckless, but as competent, reliable, capable and professional.
The shipping industry, from the mariner’s viewpoint, is rather like a set of Chinese boxes. Open one and there is another inside and another inside that, with each more remote and more difficult to deal with. Every casualty produces a flurry of documents, rules, advice on how not to collide and the inevitable ‘we fail to understand pronouncements. Blame, of course, is apportioned without going too deeply into the boxes and we settle down to await the next inevitable incident.
There are too many people in this industry with inadequate professional knowledge and little command experience trying to dictate the rules of the profession. Thus far too many false premises are allowed to be promulgated without their veracity being challenged.
The proliferation of safety departments especially in the larger companies, has not helped towards a sensible evaluation. All too often, these safety departments have as their prime concern the protection of the company that employs them rather than the interests of those at sea; they act more as internal company police forces.
This blog I have written from an article, what I have read in the “Alert”,the magazine published by the Nautical Institute. It is written originally by Maria Pittordis, Partner, Hill Taylor Dickinson, a maritime consulting firm, concerning the claims arising due to stress related medical conditions in sea.
“Over the last 18 years, I have dealt with thousands of claims involving injured crew on ships of all types. Recently, I have seen a particular increase in claims of psychiatric origin. For example: The chief officer who injures his leg with a rope during a mooring operation now has a phobia of ropes and suffers with anxiety attacks when standing on the deck of a ship. Physically he is fine, but he failed his medical on psychiatric grounds. He is medically discharged and he brings a claim for compensation.
Another wave of claims has been where physical symptoms can only be explained by a psychological element. It is the AB’s depression that makes him think he still has a bad back 2 years after the accident – known as the adjustment disorder. Claims for Post Traumatic Stress for witnessing an accident or a near miss are also on the increase, albeit many of them have not been taken seriously by owners, employers or insurers who appear to be of the opinion that seafarers “should be made of sterner stuff.” Yet, these cases have cost the industry a considerable amount.
The Human Element is mentioned periodically in every safety statistics as it accounts for between 50 to 90 % of accidents at sea, in addition every incident’s investigation reports an involvement of the human element at some point in the causal chain. Many studies have been carried out to investigate this issue in the shipping industry in different terms, such as the impact of new technology, lack of training, psychological factors just to mention few of them.
I trust that the globalization has had an impact on the Health and Safety aspect of many industries, we are moving from the local village to a global, borderless market and this has been crucial in creating a multicultural environment. This is not new in the shipping industry, a recent study reports that approximately 65 percent of the world merchant fleet have adopted multicultural strategy, which is an irreversible trend in the maritime world. The very nature of the worldwide trades has helped the flexibility of the global human resources market, and this has created during the years a multicultural community bounded by the expertise in the maritime practice.
A survey carried out in 2007 by the Seafarers International Research Centre at Cardiff University proposes that nationality is the most significant factor in determining perceptions of risk at sea: this underpin my proposition that multi-cultural crews have heterogeneous perceptions of risks and thus a possible impacts on health and safety behaviours.