News Article 03/12/2007

TANKER Operator’s Singapore TMSA Conference (Tanker Operator, Nov Dec 2007, p.50)

Commitment or compliance, lack of consistency in oil major treatment,and confusing wording - some of the issues which arose in TANKEROperator’s TMSA conference held during Digital Ship Singapore in September.

Tanker company safety managers and oil majors both agree that you should not try tocomply with TMSA. "Oil majors are looking for commitment, not just compliance," said Captain Dinesh Pradhan, marine manager, Teekay Singapore. "You have to show them the commitment is there." "TMSA is a guide, a standard, a tool and most importantly an opportunity. You can better your organisation. If we have the attitude, we have no choice – we have to do it, then we are just making trouble for ourselves."

Terry Luke, from Chevron's Singapore marine department, said that the company is benchmarking tanker companies against other companies, not against their TMSA scores. Anglo Eastern's quality and safety manager Captain Janardhanan said, "I don't believe TMSA is a compliance tool, it is a guidance tool. It should be a motivation tool, not a standard. We believe TMSA is about commitment not compliance." "There's a big difference between completing a task and accomplishing it," said Epic Shipping's risk, safety, security manager Captain Sanjay Mittal.

TMSA attitude
Patrick Slesinger, chief information officer and director of Wallem Group, said that you can potentially tell a great deal about the safety and quality mentality of a tanker operator from its attitude to TMSA.
If the company complains about TMSA and the work involved, and treats it as a 'tick the box' exercise, that could indicate that their company does the minimum to comply, he said. But if the company likes TMSA, that tells you that they genuinely want to operate the safest quality operation that they can, he said. Capt B Kartik, marine manager and designated person ashore (DPA) with World Tankers. Singapore, said that "TMSA is aimed at distinguishing between people who embrace the ISM code in its true spirit, and those who do not." "We feel TMSA has introduced a new concept," he said. "It is a standard framework for consistent assessment of operators. And oil majors are providing free management consultancy." "It's a continuous process. It's not something you allocate to a safety manager," said Mittal. "TMSA is a beacon," he said. "Industry expectations are clearly laid out."

Bad idea
While everybody agrees that trying to manage your company to reach a specific score is a bad idea, you also need to bear in mind that your score will probably be taken into account when your vessel is being considered for charter. Sometimes this has been made quite explicit. "A few months ago, a customer asked us if we could be at level 3.5 so he could give a ship to us," said Mittal. A principal benefit of TMSA is that it gives high quality tanker operators an opportunity to prove to their customers what they can do and how good they are. "Teekay looks at TMSA as an opportunity to prove to your customer your performance is backed by a quality management system," said Pradhan. "It's a best practise guide for tanker operation. OCIMF is our customer, and it tells you what your customers' requirements are." "It is a huge opportunity," said Mittal, "You can present your management's approach to targeting safety and environmental excellence to your business partners." Good tanker companies should find that their vessels get chartered preferentially over mediocre tanker companies, which should lead to higher business returns. "The advantages of TMSA could include better management fees, better money for seafarers, better quality of life at sea, better quality and motivated seafarers, fewer accidents, fewer off hires, enhanced operational efficiency, competitive advantage," said Kartik. "This is something the ISM code could not get."

Many speakers complained about a lack of consistency between different oil majors. "Each oil major perceives it differently, and you have to know the specific requirements of different oil majors," said Mittal. But you can ask the oil majors what they are specifically looking for, and most will be happy to share it with you, he said. "Be guided by what individual oil majors want to see for different elements." "We have been through a lot of fleet audits," said Janardhanan. "Oil major audits have different needs and varied interpretation." "Some of them say, I want you to do it this way, whilst others say, you could do it better."

There were plenty of comments about the wording of TMSA, and whether there is enough clarity about what tanker companies are expected to do. "Is TMSA well written to help tanker operators improve their system?" said Janardhanan. "It’s a bit like the SOLAS and MARPOL in a few areas where the interpretation could vary depending on the individual," he said. "Management of change is very much in an infancy stage," he said. "After three years we’re still not sure if we’re doing the right thing." "It has its ups and downs," said Pradhan. "But instead of trying to put it down, we should try and move on." Mittal said that he had reliable information that TMSA was not written by a seafarer. "TMSA was a take off from the International Marine Transportation business review," he said. Chevron believes that TMSA is too prescriptive but some people complain that it is not prescriptive enough, said Luke. "It's not a numbers game, we agree to it not being so prescriptive," he said. "The new TMSA will come out in June next year, with the major change to bring in barges," revealed Luke. The new version also has wording improvements, he said.

Time in rank
There was a discussion about oil major 'time in rank' demands, asking for ships to be crewed by seafarers who have served a certain number of years. "Oil majors say, they want seafarers with experience, because experience translates into safety," said Kartik. "What people neglect is time in other ranks. There has to be a formula where 50% to 60% of time in other ranks is considered. For example, for a master, 50% to 60% cent of his time as a chief officer should count." One delegate said that his company had had a brand new ship rejected by an oil major because the crew did not have enough "years in rank". Another delegate said that his company had done a comprehensive risk assessment of the crew complement it was proposing to put on board, shown the risk assessment to an oil major which had then accepted it. Epic's Mittal said that "oil majors do take into account seafarers' experience in other ranks."

Is it more work?
One speaker raised the issue about why the tanker industry is perpetually given more systems and none of the older ones get taken away. "There's many additions to the rules," he said. "Nothing is leaking off. There has to be some decree from some central government about it." "It’s all driven by governmental bodies, and required either to address an incident or the changing needs of the environment we operate in, “ said Teekay’s Pradhan. "It's the natural process of things," said Mittal. "Everything gets upgraded." Dimitris Lyras, conference chairman, noted that it was not sensible to introduce a new procedure for seafarers to follow, without coming up with one which they no longer have to do, because seafarers do not have free time. Slesinger noted that TMSA does not have to mean more work, if you do it as you go along, rather than as a discrete task. "The example I use is, if we were making cigarettes, we could count cigarettes when we make them, or count them every month in the stockroom," he said. "If it's the latter, then its extra work. Gathering data and reporting statistics should be a bi-product of a process rather than a process in itself."

Seafarer retention
Anglo Eastern's Janardhanan said that his company is doing very well on seafarer retention, claiming a 90% annual seafarer retention rate. Anglo Eastern has grown its Singapore tanker fleet by 69.7% since 2006, he said, so it has a lot of need for more seafarers. "Altogether, the industry will require 80,000 trained seafarers over 2006-2008," he said. "In the booming job market it is becoming increasingly difficult to train seafarers to company standards and retain them." Janardhanan had several other comments about TMSA. "Near miss investigation is one of the major challenges. You ask anybody how many near misses you want, you'll get that many near misses," he said. "If you say "I need eight near misses per month," people will give you eight. Near miss reports have to come naturally." Guidelines are usually reactive, he noted. "ISPS was brought in, in such a rush and hurry, all it was, was a bunch of papers. You put security tags all over the place. But has it made the ships any safer? "In remote parts of the world when a vessel is attacked by pirates – pressing the security button does not necessarily ensure that the ship would be safe. Yes the code has brought about more transparency and most incidents get reported, so additional precautions could be taken." One concern Janardhanan had was of pilotage standards in certain ports around the world, and the little power the shipping company has to do anything about it. "With more requirements and compliance to work rest hours on board the vessel is still a big issue. We are running ships with 16-18 people, which we used to man with 30-35,” he said. "Has the industry thought about having a relook at the minimum manning certificate?"

The first time Teekay looked at TMSA, "We complied with 211 KPIs out of 241 KPIs," said Pradhan. "We are a big company and we have a large fleet. We could compare ourselves to a franchise like McDonalds. You go to any McDonalds anywhere in the world and you get the same quality product,” he said. “We deliver the same quality of service all across the globe.” At Teekay a ship has to be ready for inspections all the time, he said. "Today everybody is used to all these inspections, we've learned to cope with it." Pradhan said that there is no point in complaining about the way TMSA encourages tanker companies to modernise. "We have to move to the modern day and age, we have to rely on the modern electronics and all. We have to move ahead," he said.

Kartik said he welcomed a measure designed to improve standards of shipping, but which did not revolve around punishment. "The threat of punishment should not be the only drivers for improvement," he said. However smaller tanker companies will struggle with TMSA, he said. "For an operator with six or seven ships, it's hard for him to commit the resources to benefit from this free consultancy. There has to be a certain critical mass." "TMSA looks at the most fundamental aspects," he said. Plenty of things are required to make TMSA work, including better co-operation and knowledge sharing between ship and shore (such as officers holding seminars in the shipping company office); good reporting and feedback systems, more ship visits from shore staff. "One advantage has been the introduction of KPIs," he said. Luke asked World Tankers if they saw any increase in business because of TMSA. "Actually yes," Kartik replied. Mittal joked that TMSA is a journey from "tanker managers' silent aversion" to "Timebound methodical structured approach." TMSA helps management focus on leading indicators (which indicate how well a company is being managed), such as recruitment quality, maintenance, navigation safety, emergency preparedness. "I would rather focus my energy on the leading indicators so I can manage the lagging ones better," he said. He explained how the company had set about one TMSA task, fitting electronic chart systems on ships. It put together a schedule running from March 2008 to November 2008, including running a trial of ECDIS (official electronic chart) equipment, choosing suppliers, doing initial navigation audits, and training. "At Epic Shipping we have two full time fleet training managers, with a very broad training agenda," he said. "They go on board the ships, identify training needs in the first three days then it is one to one training."

Viswanathan Shridhar, fleet manager with V Ships, talked about his company's in-house safety management software ShipSure. "Everything is integrated into one module," he said. "It's a good tool for everyone to see the ships performance." The software runs on the ship and on shore. "Data is entered on the vessel, it goes to the management office," he said. "It's integrated with purchasing and budgeting system. It also integrates with the crewing." The system has information about all the certificates. "The colour changes to red when it needs renewing." The software compares the actual budget with the expenditure budget," he said. For training, V Ships sends a staff member on board for 25 days. "He teaches people on the ship how to key in the information," he said.