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Safe management of ships?

The days of Ship owners managing and crewing ships can be viewed as a thing of the past due to the rise of ship management companies. Still, some leading ship owners prefer to keep their tradition of manning and managing ships by themselves.

I am fortunate to have worked both for a leading ownership company and a management company.

Ship management companies prefer to run the ships at an “economic cost” and keep their high value clients satisfied.

But, how effective is if we manage and supervise the day to day ship operations from shore?

Despite the large stack of ship manuals, detailed pms systems with work instructions and checklists available on board, we can ask questions regarding the effectiveness of the system if an able seaman cannot perform the opening and closing of hatch covers safely! Does a checklist which is immediately prepared by the technical managers (both from the owners and managers separately) to ship or delegating an officer to supervise each hatch cover operation solve the problem? More, do we require an officer to supervise the operation of hatch covers by able seamen whereas able seamen can operate the ship’s crane without the assistance of an officer. Further, the Master’s authority to make decisions are limited. It can be seen an enormous amount of satellite telephone calls and emails are exchanged between ship and shore daily in ship operation matters. One telephone call from shore to ship can simply disrupt the planned daily maintenance, thereby diverting the maintenance activity on the spot towards a different subject or an area. Once again, the pre planned tool box meetings and daily work plans are set aside to continue with the maintenance instructions received from the shore.

Whereas my experience onboard four handy size bulk carriers operated both commercially and technically by the ship owner, the “safe management atmosphere” was totally different where the SMS system was simple to follow and was “FELT SAFE” to work. During the tenure of 04 years, no midnight mishaps or ship operational break downs were experienced. Each member of the crew was required and were performing their duties seriously,loyally and professionally. Officer supervision were in place for statutory requirements but not needed for each deck operation especially in port. A strong “Company Safety Culture” was practically in place where all officers and crew took pride in following the system which means ” no violations but simply follow the system”. Whistle blowing was not required to be a part of the system.

To summarize, I would say keep the SMS system safe, easy to follow, sensible and thus making it effective.

December 2016 SEAWAYS-Capt. Zaid

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