A thought provoking perspective towards Safety Management System’s prevailing benefits

Safeth Management Systems
Safeth Management Systems

Doubtless, the feasibility of a company’s operation is not a definite indication of its performance as well. Thus, despite what many have alleged, the question that surrounds Safety Management System’s (SMS) feasibility sustains a highly debatable stage within the tanker shipping industry.

From one side, there have been dissenters to the view that when a company insists in maintaining enhanced safety processes, it will not only produce a respectable name among its individuals but in the whole maritime association too. From the other side, it is also deemed to deprive any kind of financial hardships, unexpected repatriation and hospitalization expenditures. Without a shadow of a doubt, the later costs are considerably higher than the ordinary overheads.

Imminently, the burden of administrative time associated with the filing of injury and illness reports is reduced to the minimum, freeing seafarers to utilize their provided medical resources. Interestingly, some analysts fostered a debate on SMS naming it as a unique technique that minimizes ailments and serious injuries. Some others, though, are grounded on the assumption that it is a risk handling policy that ultimately enhances working efficiency onboard. Besides, if the later can be named as evident, then such a process will invoke the feeling of care among employees which will rapidly trigger motivation and productivity. Nevertheless, a great number of analysts insist that it will gradually give impetus to the crew to enhance company’s safety implementation by following Flag and Port State Control directives. In the same vein, Masters will indirectly be prompted to participate in company’s improvement by providing a wealth of information through master’s review reports. Thus, there is no compelling reason to argue that this will lead to the company’s strategic development in due course.
Evidently, the company will increase its income instead of squandering money on unnecessary expenses, mitigating (a) any potential added flight costs due to unscheduled off-signers as well as (b) wasteful medical therapies due to calamitous impacts involved.

From another perspective, it will foster human relationships between individuals onboard, while smoother and safer operations will flourish due to knowledge, experience, expertise. The same can also be said about the shore side personnel (meaning Safety and Quality Managers) who will inform the Higher Management about any arising enactments affecting the company’s sustainability. Thus, there is ample support for the claim that the company will monitor all compliance levels by proactively addressing any potential gaps in its SMS.

Besides, current research performed at the University of Greenwich (UK) appears to additionally validate the view that charterers will adopt a less susceptible perception towards investment when all hazards are electronically identified. It is also deemed that improved processes and sufficient documentation will result to cutback of monthly insurance premiums. To the point, by demonstrating that risks are effectively controlled, proof of diligence will be bestowed upon any tanker shipping company in the event of regulatory casualty investigations. On the contrary, companies which are still dependent on paper-based approaches, will lay on a daily basis with the fear of an upsurge in lawsuits, unnecessary legal fees, being exposed to penalties, burdensome debts and rising insurance costs.

Another finding that appears to contribute to the formation of a robust SMS is the establishment of a well conceived and efficiently implemented Planned Maintenance System which stands as a mandatory paper/software-based system approved by ISM. From the one side it supports the company’s safety and pollution prevention objectives, while from the other side it becomes a prudent investment that protects ship-owners assets. Besides, the adequate handling of ship’s hull, deck machinery, spare parts, consumables, life-saving and fire-fighting equipment is defined as a part of PMS approved by classification societies such as Lloyd’s Register, American Bureau of Shipping, Det Norske Veritas, Bureau Veritas or Germanischer Lloyd.
Henceforward, no matter how the idea is approached, the bottom line will remain the same. That’s because it will (a) reap the benefits of reduced costs and risks, will (b) lead to minimal disruption of company’s activities and will (c) improve safety standards by protecting the value of ship-owners’ property.

To date, a great number of managers still insist that the diminution of “observation and accident trends” is another emerging benefit of SMS. Despite such a prevailing opinion, there is an absence of vibrant evidences that can attribute such a reduction to the adoption of an SMS. Contrary to expectations, a synopsis record that was extracted from an internet database revealed that:

“There has been a ‘less than expected’ reduction in observation and accident occurrence since the implementation of SMS” (Rosenthal, Kleindorfer & Elliott, 2006).

Regardless of the less than expected decline in such rates, the overwhelming majority of views rest on the assumption that any mitigation of observation and accident trends should emerge from a durable SMS alone. Nonetheless, many will attempt to develop claims that any minimal decline in observations trends is an imminent consequence of the recent adoption of the ISM framework, as far as new legislations are concerned. As a consequence, since SMS’s interest seems to remain undiminished, extensive research on the unceasing disputes is continuing and will be presented in future papers.

• Rosenthal, I., Kleindorfer, P. R., & Elliott, M. R. (2006). Predicting and confirming the effectiveness of systems for managing low-probability chemical process risks. Process Safety Progress, 25(2), 135-155

Polyzois Antonis
Chief Mate in Crude oil Tankers
Msc in Marine Engineering Management – University of Greenwich (UK) – Distinction