Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Changing the “work-ethic”

Posted on | November 12, 2012 | No Comments

How many years have people been banging on about “changing the culture” of shipping, to make it safer, or more transparent, or rather more cuddly in image terms?

Sure, there have been improvements, and lots of them, but there is still a long way to go, if the steady drip of people mixed up in “magic pipe” and oil record book malfeasance is anything to go by, along with the repetitive nature of many thoroughly avoidable accidents and incidents.

You might suggest that carelessness and complacency and the inclination to take a short cut are all manifestations of the human condition. The ship, we have been brought up to believe –“comes first” and if that means working until you drop, or become very dangerous through fatigue, so be it.

Well, such conduct, which once appeared admirable in the way that the work ethic of Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov was admired within the Soviet coalmining fraternity, is really no longer acceptable, with regulation and monitoring of hours of work aboard ships in place. But it still is seen as perfectly reasonable by some people to falsify hours of rest records and pretty well carry on as before, when “go on, stop on” was the normal regime in some hard working ships.

Respectable owners have made it very clear that there are no kudos to be had for breaking these regulations, to get the job done or to ensure the ship sails and that the records must be properly kept. Other operators turn a blind eye and let it be known, accompanied by nods and winks, that the old order hasn’t changed that much any more than have their priorities.

BIMCO has made it very clear that hours of rest regulations, as emerged from the Manila amendments to the STCW Convention need to be adhered to, with hours or work and rest also featuring in the Maritime Labour Convention.

The organisation also warns that Port State Control officers will be looking increasingly closely at these matters, and in some parts of the world, will be clamping down hard on “flogged” records, treating them with the severity reserved to those who are found to lie to the authorities.

The analogy of oil records and such like is a good one.  It took horrific penalties and criminal sanctions to bring home the need to change the culture on pollution. Will terrible examples have to be made to change it on hours of rest and work? It is, after all,  the easiest thing for an inspector to check, with all the other records that are available, to show that the crew, were not all tucked up in bed as indicated. And who knows, if compliance is that hard, maybe the crew size will have to be increased.  

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