News Article 01/06/1998

ISM Software: Turning Burdens into Opportunities?

01/06/1998 - Compuship

With the second of the three crucial ISM-Code implementation deadlines now upon the shipping industry, attention has been focussing on the ability of administrative software packages to help companies gain ISM certification.

Although classification societies are reporting that relatively few shipping companies are currently basing their ISM compliance around off-the-shelf software, there seems little doubt that computerised solutions will play an increasingly bigger role in maintaining ISM compliance in the years ahead. The requirement for general cargo ships and containerships to comply with the code in four years time should see many of the packages currently available reaching maturity.

No turnkey solution
According to Alain Chauval of Bureau Veritas, there is no such thing as a turnkey solution for ISM compliance. "Such a system does not exist on the market and will never exist," he told Compuship. Nevertheless, most of the leading ship management software houses are stressing the value of computerised systems in meeting ISM.

For data-hungry jobs such as documenting and distributing procedures and recording and analysing non-conformities, the computer is clearly far more effective than paper.

The familiar names, such as Spectec, Danaos, MMS, DPN, Marinor, NTC and Shipmanagement Expert Systems all offer modules or entire programs designed to speed SM compliance. And. despite the words of Mr Chauval at BV, some claim to offer a turnkey ISM solution.

Market newcomers
ISM has also thrown up a number of newcomers to the marine software market. Many have spun-off from shipping companies that saw the need to build a computerised system but based it upon their existing management and operating procedures. Canada Steamship Lines, featured in the April May issue of Compuship, developed QMX Maritime in just that way and is now marketing it to other shipping companies. And a system developed by Ugland lnterocean is now available to the shipping community through the UK P&l Club.

Systems based on shipping company procedures enjoy the inherent advantage of proven effectiveness in at least one case. London-based Greek operator Lyras Shipping has developed an ISM compliance program that it claims takes a much more practical approach than other systems currently available. Task Assistant, now being marketed by Ulysses Systems , takes as its starting point a detailed allocation of all the jobs that need to be done aboard ship to the job titles that are involved in them. Since one of the principal methods of access for users is to log on according to job title, the system provides instant access to the information, forms and procedural details that are relevant and obviates the need to search through irrelevant clutter.

An example: the master logs on as Master and enters the "Manual Reader" module. There he finds a long list of tasks, arranged like folders in a "Microsoft Explorer" screen. At this stage, the tasks are broadly defined - "Prepare for Voyage", "Leave Port". "Arrive in Port". Clicking on a folder brings up a more detailed list of associated tasks. Beneath "Arrive in Port" you find "Manage Bridge Resources", "Manage Berthing", "Manage Mooring" and "Standby for Emergency Contingencies".

Highlighting any one of these brings up a screen listing manual references, forms and support tools relevant to the task. So if you highlight "Manage Mooring" and look at "Support Tools", you find forms entitled "Mooring Checklist", "Tankers entering US Ports", and "Communication with EU Port Authorities". The information available gets more precise and more detailed the deeper you go, but you always follow a logical path. Other modules allow manuals and procedures to be annotated, messages and forms to be sent and user profiles altered. A red indicator next to an item on the screen shows the responsible manager that an annotation has been made, but is as yet unauthorised. He can then consider it and authorise it or not as appropriate.

What's important to remember, says , is that the software provides a template into which companies place their own procedures, forms and data. What you buy, in effect, is the software structure that provides the links and the logic.

The structure is designed specifically to meet ISM requirements for documenting procedures and tracking non-conformities. Not only does it enable experience and knowledge to be shared around the company. It also gives effective access to information that tends otherwise to lie unread and ageing in forgotten volumes on dusty shelves. And a real commitment to improving safety by sharing knowledge is the very essence of ISM.