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Today is Thursday, February 21, 2019


Not Applicable


Man is a genius in inventing technology, but not so good in handling the ‘baggage’ of negative impacts which ‘technology’ brings along. It is important to note that Red Riding Hood in her ordeal with the Wolf did manage to save herself and her grandmother. She also learnt a lesson, which was ‘never to dawdle with strangers in the forest’. However, man seems to be lagging behind in the Eco1 race with nature and has not fully learnt his lesson of the negative impacts of tampering with her till now. This is manifested by the following:

  • Damage to the ozone layer and the increased emission of ‘Green house gases (GHG’s)’. This has resulted in global warming.

  • The creation of ‘plastic’ a non bio-degradable waste has resulted in environmental problems caused by poor plastic waste management.

  • The discovery of oil a cheap power source has resulted in progress but has also resulted in several negative impacts on society, these being - increased emissions of GHG’s and the depletion of the ozone layer.
While we made our lives more comfortable with advances in technology, we have still not learnt to stop fighting, in fact with technology we have made our lives more violent, as evidenced by extremely violent films and really destructive weapon systems.

The Maritime industry too has been no different.

History has shown us that we in the shipping industry are weak in visualizing the effects of technology and development. We seem to take action only after we have a major disaster. There are evidences galore:

  • We waited for the Titanic to sink before we thought of legislation to enhance safety of life at sea.

  • A major oil spill in 1967 off the coast of England made us legislate the control of discharge of oil/oil products at sea to help protect our environment.

  • The US Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was passed only after the Exxon Valdez disaster.
We have designed sophisticated, computerized systems for performing navigation and other shipboard activities, but have failed to come up with good and sound systems to help manage or improve the environment.


To help improve safety and protection of the marine environment the International Maritime Organisation has implemented several maritime conventions through member states, these include the SOLAS, MARPOL and STCW conventions.

However, the issue today may not only be safety and environment protection but must include environment and resource conservation to ensure that shipping is ‘sustainable’.

This can be achieved through increased awareness and procedural legislation, like the ISM code that was implemented through the SOLAS convention in 1993. The code has evolved through the years and was initiated initially by the ISO 9001 standard that addressed procedural requirements of a company and its business partners, the ISM code has evolved like so in the shipping industry,

  • 1987: ISO 9001 standard was created to address the procedural requirements of a Company, its suppliers and its customers.

  • 1993: The ISM Code was introduced by the IMO as a guideline to help protect the marine environment and improve safety at sea. These guidelines were developed using the ISO 9001 standard as a template. The Code was made mandatory is 1998.

  • 1996: The ISO 14001 Environmental Management System was launched.

  • 1999: The OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health & Safety Management System was launched.

  • 2002: The ISM Code was first revised. The revision was insignificant as it did not address ‘global issues’ such as the improvement of the marine environment, marine resource conservation, issues concerning supplies that could help preserve the marine environment, and occupational health and social responsibility issues that were in vogue in shore based industries, however this did not happen due to poor vision.
Due to this, most ships today still follow a code which may be irrelevant in relation to marine resource conservation and the improvement of occupational health and safety. It is evident that the ISM code is not in vogue as oil majors have developed their own systems of ship vetting etc., to help provide sustainable shipping - an example would be the Tanker Management Self Assessment (TMSA) introduced in 2006. This vetting system ensures that tanker vessels chartered/owned by them conform to a management system that seeks to continually improve environmental and safety excellence through a system of finding gaps in existing management systems and then closing these gaps with an action plan that is assessed and then improved as required. This helps improve quality. Quality improvement will eventually help provide ‘sustainable tanker shipping’.

In this regard, the IMO Secretary General Efthimios Mitropoulos said that “few, if any, will be immune from the consequences of the global financial crisis in 2009. Maintaining their determination to provide quality to customers, is the only way people involved in shipping could emerge from the slump unscathed and flourish in the better times to follow”. This is the ‘Golden truth’. However, the terms ‘quality, health and continual improvement’ are not mentioned in the ISM code, as manifested by the following facts:

  • The word ‘Safety’ appears 202 times, vis-a-vis the word ‘Quality’ which has not a single mention in the entire code. The code ignores ‘Quality’ which is a must for the survival of any business or work process.

  • Environment, thankfully is mentioned 12 times of which 7 times it is ‘protection of the environment’ and remaining 5 times ‘Marine Environment’. The ISO 14001 which ushered in 1996 revolves around ‘Improvement of the Environment’ and the ‘Protection of the Environment’.

  • The word ‘Prevention’ figures 22 times of which:

    • It appears 21 times as ‘Pollution prevention’ and

    • Once as Prevention of human injury
  • The word ‘Improvement’ does not appear in the code.

    • Continual Improvement is the ‘Hall mark’ of every progressive Organization.
  • The word ‘Health’ has no appearance. The world adopted Occupational Health & Safety Standards in 1999 (OHSAS 18001:1999).
The Maritime industry therefore has legislation that provides for the protection of the environment through various conventions like the Marine Pollution Convention (MARPOL 73/78) or the Civil Liability Convention. However they have no legislation that provides for the improvement of the environment, which in the shipping context may not be realistic, however they could have legislation to continually improve the way we conduct our business in relation to safety and environment protection.


We feel that improving quality is the right thing to help improve resource conservation and provide higher standards for occupational health and safety. Toward this end we have some suggestion for both shipowners and regulators. These are as follows:

Ship owners:

  • Don’t necessarily do what the neighbours did. If they are wrong, so will you be. Implement a management system for your company that can help you continually improve the way you do your business, using best business practices to help improve quality, resource management and occupational health and safety issues.

  • Read the simple 8 Management Principles, which are applicable for any ‘Business or profit centre’ small or big. Establish one new one each year.

  • The Management must have the will to help improve quality through decisions that are not only based with an eye on profits.

  • Reward the performers in your organization and not those who ‘present’ performance.

  • Do not see ‘Environment’ and ‘Safety & Quality’ issues as an expense; see it as an investment for driving benefits and improving the ‘bottom line’.

  • Wait for 3 years before you harvest your first crop and

  • Then harvest each year as you grow from strength to strength

  • Think of long term gains and avoid ‘quick fix’ short term solutions.

  • Give back to the society a small share of what you earn.

  • Think of the future and out of the box. Be dynamic and change regulations continually to help provide sustainable shipping.

  • Demand change and improvement. Because nature is changing every moment.

  • Create a Management System standard code of practice which is comprehensive and has a futuristic outlook.

  • Have three levels of compliance, Basic, Advanced and Superlative not in terms of their level of compliance, but a degree of what they actually benefited from the ‘compliance’ thus creating a culture of deriving benefit rather than just documentary compliance.

  • Change the entire concept of audit & inspections: The normal tendency for any person/organization is to ‘cover up’ mistakes. The real truth is ‘we all make mistakes’. So, rather encourage declaration of mistakes (non-conformances) and what action was taken. The ‘Quality’ of their submission and the actions would determine the ‘Quality’ of their system -- thus, making the audit exercise more transparent and meaningful for both parties.

  • Get feedbacks from the industry, from the grass root and users and not necessarily the Ship owners/ Managers office.

  • Reward people who come out with suggestions.

  • Use specialists and experienced persons particularly when it comes to creating soft issues such as ‘standards and management system practices’.

  • Audits must result in a ‘value addition’ exercise and not just a defect identification & finger pointing exercise.
Is this the end of the road for the Shipping industry? Or is it a beginning of a new era? Do we sit in the time machine and move forward and think more pragmatically on the above issues, or think more progressively, with a futuristic out-look. We must now have the will to look at environmental and safety issues that help preserve the environment, and provide sustainable shipping an emphasis on both the ‘bottom line’ and the provision of ‘sustainable shipping’.

What do figures like 3% of the GHG emission (contribution from the shipping industry) really mean to a ship owner? But if one was to tell him, get your ‘act’ straight and you could save a few hundred thousand dollars, perhaps this would ring a bell. Ship owners need to change their perception of codes and management practices such as the ISM, ISO 9001 Quality, ISO 14001 Environment, ISO 18001 Occupational Health & Safety from as ‘a problem’, or just as a ‘compliance issue’ and an ‘expense’ to ‘AN INVESTMENT’ which certainly would harvest returns which they have not been able to fathom so far.

Capt. Naveen S Singhal Capt. Ashok Mulloth

Tel: +65 92305643 Email: singhal.ns@gmail.com

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