News Article 16/05/2002

ISM Code must create safety culture and not become paper exercise, delegates urge

16/05/2002 - Lloyd's List

''The ISM Code - making it really work'' was the title of an important conference held this week by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology.

Designed to review the experience gained from the first phase of the implementation process, and on the eve of the second phase, which will see the remaining ships in the world fleet coming under the International Safety Management Code net, the conference was highly topical and attracted speakers and delegates from shipping companies, class and regulatory elements.

Attitude and culture is what the ISM Code is all about, and UK shipping minister David Jamieson noted that an important element in the concept was about changing attitudes; the role of the code being as one of the principal tools for eliminating sub-standard shipping and instilling a safety culture.

Koji Sekimitzu of IMO related the ISM Code to its essential specifics; the maintenance of standards and the improvement of quality. The code, said Mr Sekimitzu, "must not become a paper exercise", which was a recurrent theme.

If attitudes and cultures are to be changed, ideas have to be sold, and it was David Stratton of the International Chamber of Shipping''s contention that insufficient effort had been expended on the ''hearts and minds'' campaign that was needed to sell the code to enough of the industry.

Brian Orrell, general secretary of Numast, was well briefed by a comprehensive survey of his members on ISM and focused upon the poor quality operators. His membership was complaining about the bureaucratic burden, inadequate training in how to deal with it all, and the shortage of resources. It was, he said, "a bitter irony" if a system designed to promote safety made life more dangerous.

Turning to the code in practice, the role of the shipmaster was reviewed by Captain Barry Cuneo of Carousel Shipping. ISM, said Capt Cuneo, was designed for the ship and not the convenience of auditors and that was a lesson they needed to take aboard. Moreover, if it was done properly, the code need not be a burden.

Nicos Mikelis, of Lyras Shipping, gave a shipowner''s view of the implementation and development of the ISM Code, focusing on the decision of the three big class societies to form the "LAN" group and establish their own rules linking class and ISM, a move which has proved very contentious and which has caused considerable inconvenience to owners and managers, besides causing a rift with the remaining societies.

The fact that this was put in train when a Joint Working Group was making good progress at resolving ISM and class problems was also distressing. Dr Mikelis also reported that ISM compliance need not be a "paper chase" and offered the example of his own company in this respect.

Fred Hardy of Bureau Veritas was equally passionate about the role of class and the society''s quality departments. Who else, other than class, was equipped to undertake the auditing burden, he asked.

Ferriby Marine's Graeme Botterill spoke of the differences between auditing and surveying, pointing out that auditing in the maritime industry was a new skill which had to be developed.

The role of the port state was reviewed by Captain Dan Sarenius of the Swedish Administration, who serves on the technical committee of the Paris MOU, which he said was broadening its scope, membership and improving its data flow. However, he noted that its members were recording an increased number of ISM and other related deficiencies.

Stuart Withington of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch gave a casualty investigator''s perspective, and suggested that of all the influences on ship quality, it was the contribution of the shipping company which was all-pervasive.

Research into the effects of the code was provided by the Swedish Club''s Martin Hernqvist and the North of England club's Philip Anderson.

The former revealed statistical evidence to the effect that the code had had a positive effect on loss statistics that surely must find their way into the bottom line.

Capt Anderson, who is completing a mammoth research exercise that has polled thousands of mariners about the code and its effectiveness, believes that proof of improvement can be demonstrated.

The final session of the meeting saw Aleka Sheppard, of the London Shipping Law Centre, advocate more legislation to penalise poor performers.

Pantileimon Pantelis offered new technology solutions for the ISM Code with the Ulysses Task Assistant, software designed to create order out of documentary chaos with substantial uses in the maintenance of an ISM system for ship and shore.

A defence of the LAN policy, which the three class societies produced, to avoid the odium of bad publicity with ships they had not classed but for which they had issued ISM documents, was developed by Andrew Mitchell of Lloyd''s Register.

One day in 900 aboard a ship was, he said, insufficient and had prompted the intervention by the three big societies.

Captain Mike Shuker of the International Chamber of Shipping stressed the importance of the Designated Person and suggested that surveillance needed enhancement. ISM was working but at different levels. It was, he said, a "matter of confidence".

Reproduced with kind permission of Lloyd's List