Capt. John Dickie, Managing Director, Joint Development Associates Ltd., says that the biggest safety challenge facing shipping in 2017 is that of retaining the best crews on board and professionals ashore in the office. Therefore, industry should focus on a more practical approach to enforcement of the new STCW certification requirements for seafarers that enter into effect on 1 January 2017.
SAFETY4SEA: Do you think there was a significant success and/or progress made with respect to maritime safety during 2016? Focusing on your area of expertise, what were the most important industry developments within 2016?
John Dickie: The maritime world is moving forward and safety is being improved, but as markets are squeezed financially the loading on the shipowners is increasing and there needs to be a balance between what is achievable and what can be afforded. While Safety is paramount the focus should be to get rid of old substandard tonnage and reduce the number of ships so that freight rates can be raised. The reports of major shipping companies becoming involved in grouping assets together shows the pressure that is being placed on the industry as a whole. How business is conducted and the concept of what exactly a shipping company is and how it operates needs to evolve to meet the changes in the world and how business will be conducted. Those that adapt will thrive and those they do not will suffer. But against this there must be a warning to the legislative bodies that while it to their credit that they are introducing new and improved legislation, the biggest question must is it affordable and sustainable. Environmental issues will grow to dominate a lot of new legislation.
S4S: Focusing on your area of expertise, what do you think that it will be the biggest safety challenge(s) for the maritime safety for the 2017?
J.D.: The biggest safety challenge facing shipping is that of retaining the best crews on board and professionals ashore in the office. The 1st January 2017 sees the STCW 2010 amendments come into force yet there appears to be a lot of problems in ensuring the level playing field of everyone meeting these amendments. Companies and flag administrations who have met these changes ahead of or on time and spent the money on their crews should be commended. Questions need to be asked of those that have not and the reasons why they have not complied. The shipping community will be judged on how it handles this problem and it probably only bite once ships are detained by PSC for having crews on board that do not fully comply with the amended provisions for certification of seafarers.
S4S: What would be the 2017 resolutions for your company/ organization? What are your goals and aspirations to enhance shipping safety? Do you have any new projects on the pipeline and/or plans for 2017 that you would like to share?
J.D.: My major project is finding ways to deliver courses at minimum cost while not diluting the content and standards of attainment. This has been triggered by seeing an increase in the number of seafarers who are having to pay for their training courses to retain their employment. As budgets are squeezed ever more tightly it will be seen that this will increase. This is one top of pay and conditions being eroded as the money is not there to support what was sustainable in the “good” times. Will they ever return? Probably not. This poses the impossible equation of employing highly skilled and motivated crews while at the same time reducing their pay and conditions. It is not a recipe for success. The core issue here is that their is only so much money to go around and it is being pulled in every direction to meet what is required to operate ships.
S4S: What is your overall forecast for shipping safety in 2017 and what would you like to share and/or wish and/or ask other industry stakeholders?
J.D.: Shipping has a lot to look at in 2017. It is hoped that the slowly increasing price of oil will have a knock on effect throughout the industry but the forthcoming year will see a number of companies ceasing to trade. Hanjin may have been the first but it will not be the last. Whether this is good or bad remains to be seen. The rush to autonomous ships will have an effect on recruitment to the industry. How do you encourage people to make a career at sea when they could become obsolete within their life time? There are more questions than answers. There will be other issues rising such as the conduct and control of the scrapping of ships and how this can be attained. The standards of safety and employment of personnel employed in this sector is very bad. Shipowners will see the financial return for scrapping ships reduced which in turn reduces return on investment. There will come a point when shipowners will decide to walk away and invest in other industries that will give them a better return on their money. That will then pose the biggest challenge to the shipping industry and who will replace those that leave.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.