Watchkeeper: Introspection at IMO


There might be a broad welcome for the conclusions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Symposium on the Future of Ship Safety held in London at the organisation’s headquarters earlier this month. This was an opportunity for those who are on the receiving end of the regulators’ activities to suggest that there was room for improvement in this process, and the messages seem to have been encouragingly received by the IMO itself.

In short it has been recommended that the IMO carries out “a full review of the existing regulatory regime in order to meet future needs and expectations”. Those attending the meeting, which was the first of its kind, saw a good response from the shipping industry and its various stakeholders, with a whole range of positive ideas about how the regulatory processes can be improved. It was interesting to note, for instance, the belief that much of the body of regulation, bearing down on the industry has become a “burden”, and also that there was a widespread belief that all too often, regulations were made on the basis of scanty or unreliable data.

Thus, one of the major recommendations from the symposium was to consider how data collection might be improved, and its availability increased, “in order to support monitoring and development of safety regulations.

There appears also to be a more widespread understanding of risk-based methodologies and it has been suggested that these should be better integrated into the regulatory framework, with both science and practicability more visibly injected into the regulatory processes, producing more flexible and useful regulations.

For years there has been a demand for the emergence of a safety culture, and perhaps at long last some effort might be made to encourage attitudes that go beyond mere compliance with regulatory requirements. The symposium heard a number of interventions from major ship operators who demonstrated how they were operating at a very much higher level than was prescribed by the rules, inferring that these high quality operations should be the norm, and not left to just a few operators.

The human element was also a major talking point in the symposium, with all sides of the industry pointing out that the burden of new or changing regulations invariably makes the work of seafarers harder. This it was suggested, should be “taken into account”, although there will be many in the industry who hope that a more active effort will be made to reduce this burden further. Support for seafarers, “must be continuously addressed” a IMO, responded the Secretary General.

Mr. Sekimizu made it clear that the work of the symposium, which was attended by some 500 people, would be taken very seriously by the organisation, which will take into account the growing complexity and increasing size of ships, the need for safety to go beyond “box-ticking” and the need for a regulatory framework that is suitable for future challenges.

The shipping industry and its various stakeholders will be watching developments with anticipation in the coming months and years.










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