Update Apr 2006

Demonstrating due diligence is the industry's challenge to avoid being part of the trend toward criminalisation.

Management negligence
The most serious scrutiny and fines understandably address issues not pertaining to isolated crew errors, but rather significant omissions in the planning and execution of ship management. Errors in management planning are essentially uninsured by Hull and Machinery underwriters while P&I clubs are becoming far more reluctant to cover fines, especially those related to poor management practices by operators. Moreover, it has been the operator, instead of the owner, who has been more frequently targeted by authorities in recent incidents. A further consequence of management failures beyond the embarrassment of the industry is a substantial loss of credibility in the eyes of regulators and legislators. This in turn reinforces the perception held by many governments that further regulation of the industry is a necessity. Consequently, the additional long term loss from further regulation will be the erosion of owners'' assets as existing vessels try to comply with new regulations, thereby increasing amortization and reducing profitability.

Above all, the criminalisation of seafarers who have long relied on procedures and practices, which are no longer deemed acceptable by external shareholders, remains the most significant threat.

The answer
The way to prevent these negative situations is to avoid management failures.
The current Wild West approach in certain Port State regimes is regrettable. However, the remedy to apparent "planned" negligence, which they are so emphatically penalizing, is timely.

The method
Change management is mainly required to change maritime staff perceptions and working practices. In the case of Oily Water Separators, they are issues, which other stakeholders, in this case the world’s Port State enterprises, prioritize as needing remedy.
Change management is about emphasizing new areas of focus while continuing to address existing ones.

To achieve our goal, both current and emerging practices must be attended to:

  1. Current practices must be well established and clearly understood by practitioners. This means that recently introduced items, such as crew peer assessments for safety practices, must continue to be reinforced when introducing new items such as Oily Water Separator training, and other best practice guidelines.
  2. The first step is to make sure that management can monitor whether recently adopted practices can be verified. It is easy to overlook the success of recently established new practices for several reasons. New practices must abide by work-hour and resource limitations, they must correlate to an acceptable and practical degree of training, and they must prove effective in delivering optimal results. There is no doubt that Oily Water Separator management was an issue in the past. Unfortunately, it was overlooked as crews were urged to prioritise compliance with numerous new requirements and continuous improvement items. Most importantly, current practices must be verifiable and easy to monitor.
  3. New crews: Well established practices may be entrenched in the minds of veteran crews who have had considerable exposure to them, but the same may not apply to recently transferred crews. All companies have the capacity to identify differences between company practices and the common expectations of transferred crews. However, the emphasis on these practices needs to be highlighted, continuously reinforced, and verified whenever new recruits are introduced to the management system.
  4. Deviation from common industry practices may appear to be a good way to distinguish a company, but we must take issues of legality and precedence into consideration when deliberating on such deviations. This also pertains to the familiarisation issues mentioned above.

New change management items
New change management items, such as Oily Water management and best practice guidelines for existing separator machinery, must be designed and executed realistically.
Simply emphasizing the importance of issues in a circular will not lead to a solution unless the results are monitored and verified. All companies are familiar with the steps necessary to change management. However, some of these steps are often overlooked because of time restrictions and the absence of a clearly laid out method of execution.

  1. The new attention item in the case of Oily Water management must be introduced as a recently modified but previously existing task.
  2. The task must be modified to address the role of each crewman who is involved with Oily Water management.
  3.  The task must comply with available man-hours for each required role.
  4. The task must have a method to verify its proper execution initially.
  5.  The task must have a method to verify its proper execution in the long term.
  6. The task must undergo a change management workflow to be approved by the on board and shore management teams. In other words, the task must be modified in close collaboration with the practitioners on board and the collaboration process must be verifiable.
  7. The task must go through proper risk assessment.
  8. The task must be accompanied by adequate familiarization and training.

Replacing the term "task" with "procedure" may more closely emulate current managerial approaches. However, the crucial issue is whether the people on board will assimilate new procedures into their roles or job descriptions, whereupon completion of their assigned portion of the procedure, they will notify other stakeholders, and if the intended process fails, that it would be picked up by the right internal stakeholders.
Although we could replace the word "task" with "procedure", in essence we are discussing a modified Oily Water management process involving tasks executed by different roles. Each task may be different and each one may require instructions, updating the practitioner with current status, and then a means for verification and notice to other practitioners.

In other words, a procedure may not be adequate either as an on going guide to a critical process or a working tool to co-ordinate the process and provide adequate demonstrable diligence.

Arguably providing a technically tamper proof solution (white box), or a better Oil Water Separator, may be easier in this case, nevertheless, other change management exercises will not lend themselves to white box solutions.
In addition to the above regarding change management, demonstrating competence and due diligence is the industry''s best defence against external scrutiny from charterers via TMSA, from Port State, legislators, etc.
Excellent record keeping, and correct supportive evidence like defect reporting, spare ordering, Oily Water Management evidence, as well as consistent and accurate communication with the USCG when issues arise, is vital to demonstrating due diligence and compliance with existing regulations.

Ulysses can significantly help in providing the tools to make demonstrable competence and change management less disruptive and more cost effective.

  • The unique Task Orientation helps achieve understanding and co-ordination in a significant way.
  • Ulysses introduced Role and Task orientation in 1998.
  • Role orientation has become established in the world''s largest software platforms only in the last 2 years or so.
  • Business Process Management (BPM) and the flexibility it allows, was also introduced by Ulysses in 1998.
  • BPM and flexible service orientated architectures are the current emphases of companies like SAP and have spurred many new successful software companies in the past 5 years such as Metastorm.
  • Ulysses is still unique in its Task Orientation. It was introduced at a time when the realisation of information management burden had not yet sunk in within the maritime industry.
  • The perception of information burden is rapidly changing.
  • Task Orientation is rapidly gaining recognition as the only means to allow companies to set up their internal transparency in a way that will accommodate the waves of change in the shipping industry without limits of information overload and excess burden on users.
  • The difference is similar to comparing travel by train or by plane. Both work, but for longer journeys, the airplane is more time efficient, and subsequently, more cost-efficient.