It’s easy to talk about the importance of seafarer safety from the comfort of your office. But the UK Chamber of Shipping’s determination to improve the industry’s safety record is not academic or hypothetical; for us it’s personal.
I spent over a decade at sea, as did many of my colleagues – including Fena Boyle, the UK Chamber’s Policy Manager tasked with leading our safety campaigns. In that time we all saw practices that were unsafe. If you have ever been to sea, chances are you saw something similar. It’s also likely that your ability to address systemic safety issues was limited, after all it is difficult in a close-knit crew to report a colleague for doing something wrong.
It’s why training alone will not solve the industry’s safety problem. Instead, we must focus on developing a true and robust safety culture. The UK Chamber is bringing together shipping companies, seafarers and industry professionals to share best practices, highlight common barriers to improving safety and provide a united policy platform on which to lobby the government and IMO. We are developing standardised safety toolkits and reviewing data being collective from across our membership in a bid to identify problems before they occur.
But we are now going a step further by developing a ‘Safety Culture Charter’. Companies from across the industry are being asked to pledge their commitment to a safe and just working culture at sea, taking the lessons they are learning from industry-wide collaboration and applying it to their day-to-day operations. By setting and working towards company-specific KPIs, signatories of the charter will be encouraged to develop objectives for future improvements, filter Safety Culture from the top down to all employees, whilst assisting with the creation, and adoption, of consistent and standardised observation and reporting processes.
This is meaningful action, fuelled by a genuine determination to improve the industry’s safety record. Whilst there are many potentially hazardous situations faced by seafarers on a routine basis, serving at sea is not inherently dangerous. Our seafarers have every right to expect to return safely to their families. The only way to guarantee their safety is by everyone – from Chief Executives down – to take responsibility and play their part.
By Bob Sanguinetti, CEO UK Chamber of Shipping
This article was first published in the Safety at Sea magazine in March 2019.