Update Sep 2002

International Safety Regulations: Problems, concerns, thoughts and suggestions for their efficient implementation and training issues. What should be the role of computerisation?

The fire that spread on the "Eurasia Dream" at the port of Fujairah led to a significant destruction of both the vessel and its cargo. The investigations that followed led to the conclusions that the vessel's crew was inadequately updated on issues of safety and emergency response. Important safety rules and instructions were overlooked while the procedures of the safety system in place were either deficient or improperly implemented and carried out.
Therefore, every rule that disregarded not only the safety of human life but also the shipping wealth and the protection of the marine environment was rendered completely obsolete.

The above incident and this observation lead to a line of questioning:

  • Why did the company fail to implement and more importantly to control a more accurate safety system?
  • Why was the crew not trained / qualified?
  • How important is the training of crew? How does proper training ensure correct implementation of the rules?
  • What could be the overall cost and how could it best be dealt with?

Implementations of Safety Systems and regulations that oversee the guarding and the protection of human life and the marine environment have become part of daily common practice.
Today, the shipping world, the crew and the office personnel are obliged to continuously follow educational awareness programmes so that they are in accordance with the demands of the international regulations.

Meanwhile, the companies themselves concentrate on training both the relevant people in the office and those on board the vessels with the numerous separate systems that each company has imposed and implemented.

The answer is that the training should be based on simple and understandable methods of learning, so that the trainees can use the implemented systems in the most efficient manner, and participate in such a way that there is a better possibility of ensuring proper functioning of the system.

Computerisation can contribute significantly to the solutions of the above questions; but the dangers that are involved in selecting a computerised system are as important as the dangers of a badly implemented Safety System.

A company's decision in selecting a software system is usually triggered by the necessity to cover its needs. While in areas such as banking, this necessity has been identified at a very early stage as the highest priority, in shipping it is only in the last few years that the idea of computerised support is beginning to mature for the daily running operation of the vessels. The accounts departments have had computerised support from a very early stage.

What are the "factors" in order to make such a decision?

Only multiple features or functionality and ergonomics?
The perception that the good computerised applications are the ones with multiple features is only true to a degree. Our experience both in the shipping arena and in the IT world has shown us that the superior applications are the ones that assist greatly the field of one's work. This "assistance" that the application provides should not be restricted to a limited time period, since neither a shipping company nor any type of investment is carried out as a short-term prospect. Therefore applications that are flexible, as technologically simple as they are intelligent, that can be adjusted to the needs of any corporation with ease, and that are able to integrate and upgrade are necessary; the consideration of multiple features alone can be a limited view. So in this manner one would have the ability to achieve the aim of continuous improvement of the established rules and the control of their implementations.

Should it be a tool for few or for all?

It is an indisputable fact that most shipping companies are hesitant in selecting a computerised solution because they are afraid of its defective adaptation by the end-users. The end users being mainly mariners or office personnel that are predominantly from a sea-faring background.

A poor choice of information systems leads to a demanding computerised environment for the few and a "hassle" for many. Computerisation should be aiming at both relieving the surplus administration, and also the necessary bureaucratic procedures. It should also make an automatic distribution of the information therefore enabling staff to perform the quick and correct execution of their duties using every piece of information available; basically a tool used by everyone. Hence the implementations must be simple, intuitive and be adaptable to the way that the user works and thinks. In this manner the users are trained faster, they familiarise themselves with the company specific system and they can be updated with every change that might occur. Consequently the training of the crew on the company's software in this way is more efficient and advanced.

Cheap or economically valuable?
It is very costly for every shipping company to train their mariners at every stage of their careers. It is the same for the stakeholders of every company. It is therefore very hard to also have the additional burdens of training them in the principles of the company's information systems. Why cannot the computer substitute the role of the trainer? Besides, a functional, ergonomic and technologically "smartly simplified" system should have rudimentary maintenance, advanced technological and other developments, without influencing the ergonomic factors that have already been mentioned. Therefore a well-selected system is one that is not "cheap" as such but one that is economically "valuable" as long as it not afflicted with numerous burdens of complicated maintenance and training sessions.

Having liased with many shipping companies internationally, we came to the conclusion that the shipping industry is hesitant and sceptical on the implementation of software in shipping. Adaptability and training of the crew are the main concerns and apprehensions in shipping. Yet, incidents such as those of the "Eurasia Dream" force us to conclude that we must offer solutions and resolutions to issues of training, organisation and awareness. It is a prerequisite that the established regulations should work towards the advantage of "safety at sea". In order for this to happen these regulations should remain operational and active. The pro-active involvement of all within shipping is crucial for this to be achieved.

We are confident that computerisation and the Task Assistant can contribute significantly to the formation of permanent resolutions, as well as give numerous solutions to the above-mentioned problems. The argument is simple, the Task Assistant addresses the "factors" that were previously mentioned. It is so flexible that it can cover all the needs of every company without affecting its abilities. It has a role and task based structure, resulting in the intuitive and quick training of the end users. Therefore it is a tool for everyone! The above, in combination with the processing of the information performed by the Task Assistant, makes it a very valuable and excellent tool. Finally, the combination of all this with its technical architecture makes it an extremely economical package!