Safety on board…more than just paper pushing!

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Pelagos Yachts

The role of a modern yacht Captain has changed greatly in the last 10 years. With an increase in maritime legislative guidelines, Captains now find themselves dealing with paperwork as much as they find themselves navigating the yacht! SOLAS, MARPOL, IMO, MLC, ISM/ISPS, (this industry sure likes an acronym) are all terms familiar to Captains and crew alike, but not always fully grasped.

In our blogs we will look at various aspects of the maritime legislation and how this impacts up on the operation of yachts around the World.

The answer to mitigating safety issues aboard is…..

This issue will look at the Mini-ISM system and whether it really is the answer to mitigating safety issue on board, or just another set of forms and tick boxes to be completed!

Safety at sea has improved enormously over the last 100 years, and continues to do so. Rules and regulations, beginning with SOLAS have given the industry a compulsory framework to follow. In addition, with the increase in engineering and electronic technology, unexpected mechanical or structural failure is rare. This should however not lead to complacency! Indeed according to the IMO the annual loss of life at sea has ran at over 1,000 for a number of consecutive years.

Safety at sea has developed through many phases, from the reactive finger pointing and blame culture, to compulsory adherence to rules and regulations. It is now time to fully embrace a third phase: that of a “just-culture” and self-regulation.

Self-regulation can often be seen as just “common sense”, but it goes deeper than that. It goes to the heart of how a vessel is run both from the top down and the bottom up. ALL crew members should have a sense of duty to themselves and the yacht in general as to how they conduct themselves in their work practices and down time. The key to this…..training!

Training can be swing between wildly authoritarian to lip service at best. The key is to find a middle ground that not only complies with the legislative framework but also provides real tangible benefits to the yacht and the crew in terms of life, limb and wallet.

With that we come to the issue of Mini-ISM; mandatory on all commercially operating yachts which are over 24m but under 500GRT.

The purpose of Mini ISM is :

• To ensure Safety at Sea
• To prevent human injury or loss of life
• To avoid damage to the environment, in particular the marine environment and to the Yacht.

It requires owners and operators of yachts to set in place a Safety Management System (SMS). The introduction of a SMS requires a Company to document its management procedures to ensure that conditions, activities and tasks, both ashore and afloat, affecting safety and environmental protection are planned, organised, executed and checked in accordance with legislative and company requirements.

“The SMS will enable a Company to identify areas for improvement in safety practice and pollution prevention measures. The effective implementation of a safety culture should lead to an improvement in safety consciousness and safety management skills.” According to the IMO.

Similarly, as stated by the MCA, “The ISM Code seeks to address the human element of yacht operations”.

Each SMS consists of the following elements:

• Commitment from top management
• A Top Tier Policy Manual
• A Procedures Manual that documents what is done on board the Yacht , during normal operations and in emergency situations
• Procedures for conducting both internal and external audits to ensure the Yacht is doing what is documented in the Procedures Manual
• A Designated Person Ashore to serve as the link between the Yacht and shore staff and to verify the SMS implementation
• A system for identifying where actual practices do not meet those that are documented and for implementing associated corrective action
• Regular management reviews
• Another requirement of the ISM Code is for the Yacht to be maintained in conformity with the provisions of relevant rules and regulations and with any additional requirements which may be established by the Company.
• Each ISM compliant Yacht is audited, first by the Company (internal audit) and then each 2.5 to 3 years by the Flag State Marine Administration to verify the fulfilment and effectiveness of their Safety Management System. Once SMS is verified and it is working and effectively implemented, the Yacht is issued with The Safety Management Certificate. Comments from the auditor and/or audit body and from the Yacht are incorporated into the SMS by the shore office.

So, this is just another set of flow charts and tick boxes I hear you cry. Well yes….and no!

The key to an effective Safety Management System is that is a real time, organic document. It’s not just a folder to sit on a shelf or an App that’s never opened. It leads to an ongoing continuous dialogue within the yacht itself and also between the yacht and its Managers.

A good SMS encourages a safety culture, not a blame culture. It ensures that operational capability of the yacht isn’t lost; there is a safer working environment; insurance claims are reduced; guests are kept safe and happy and that there is an overall duty of care shown to the yacht and its crew/guests.

In the litigious world in which we find ourselves, this can only be a good thing! Right?

Pelagos Yachts

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