(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) The phrase “Survival of the Fittest” is well known to all of us. In plain English, this phrase can be better understood as “survival in a form that will leave the most copies of itself in successive generations” or “survival of those who can manage change”.
The winds of change are hitting the shipping Industry hard with industry executives being forced to re-evaluate the way they traditionally conduct business. Ongoing overcapacity coupled with a soft global demand, requirements for added-value deliverables at cheaper prices and faster delivery, along with new environmental regulations, security risks are just a few of the present-day challenges faced by the shipping industry.
There is certainly no silver bullet to address all these challenges head-on, however, there is the digital transformation path that the shipping industry has acknowledged as one of the keys to its survival. This means exploring new avenues to make sea transport logistics more efficient and safer using technology.
It is commonly accepted that the operational model and practices of the shipping world have more or less remained the same over time, simply because changes occur gradually. Daily routines and workflows remain unchanged, meaning complacency sets in which on occasions, becomes a threat. For example, a simple transfer between two tanks in the engine room may create trouble for the ship if the records slightly differ from the suggested pattern or use of the wrong code.
It is also recognized that requirements and regulations that were put in force a long time ago are still valid to this day with only minor alterations, whilst new regulations are simply added on top of the existing ones, causing confusion.
The industry is also facing a shortage of seafarers that is expected to increase in the future. It is expected that this shortage will most likely force academies to reduce the time spent on education and training, as the market pushes for a quicker turnaround of seafarers.
These developments, coupled with the ever-shrinking pool of experienced and knowledgeable crews has, in effect, left ship operators with no other option but to undertake the burden of monitoring every single task or operation and intervene when a risk is about to escalate.
And it does not stop there...
Ship managers need to gather more and more data from vessels to optimize the fleet or crew performance, while at the same time ensuring that any lack of knowledge is identified early through data analysis. So more and more data is required along with supporting evidence, records, and detailed reports with the aim of analyzing and monitoring efficiency.
The above industry challenges (and many more) were identified by Cyprus based Maritime Technology & Marine Risk Firm Prevention at Sea (PaSea) with focus on the need to tackle the use of on-board paper log books and their related weaknesses.
As we are all well aware, seafarers work, live and sleep on-board around the clock under noisy, dynamic and stressful conditions. Lack of adequate rest without a doubt results in fatigue which adversely affects the seafarer’s performance, significantly increasing the likelihood of accidents, wrong actions and decisions.
Complying with rest hour requirements has proved to be a challenge for seafarers and vessel operators. Getting proper rest periods each day is not enough as this also needs to be proved to the authorities. The ISM code and Port State Control have in recent years become stricter on seafarer rest hour requirements emphasizing the need to record every event onboard including both rest and work hours. This adds to crew’s administrative burden and adversely affects efficiency. Not only do vessel staff need to be well rested each day but they also need to prove this to the authorities creating the need for a more effective and efficient rest hour recording system.
Having identified gaps in existing paper based tools used for recording rest hours, Prevention at Sea developed and released ‘RH Managεr’, a software application designed to assist seafarers in properly recording, calculating and monitoring their working and rest hours on board as set out in STCW, MLC 2006, OPA 90, 46 US Code 8102.
Users of the RH Managεr software are now able to visualize the log books used for the ship’s internal purposes by recording events connected to the Seafarer’s daily task as well as the ship’s operations. This provided the user the benefit of identifying whether the log book records coincide and whether recorded events across log books are uniquely date and time stamped. The software enables the user to easily insert data and instantly evaluate any rule violations with the software providing accurate notifications of the time period of the violation and the affected regulation.
Another topic of focus by PaSea related to the improper discharge of waste oil from vessels. It is well known that all vessels are required to keep manual records of all oil storage, discharges and incinerations in an oil record book (ORB). Traditional paper-based ORB recordings allow the occurrence of repeated illegal actions and regardless of whether these are intentional or not, such actions are inevitably detected by the authorities and then it was too late as several illegal discharges in the sea may have already occurred.
By having the right technology in place, such issues can be detected as suspicious actions and flagged well in advance. This lead to PaSea providing the shipping industry with the multiple award winning ε-ORB.
The ε-ORB software is Lloyd’s Register certified and is the first electronic oil record book developed to facilitate compliance to requirements of International Conventions and Flag Registries with regards to the ORB and at the same time enhance efficiencies on-board.
The software was designed to assist seafarers in the traditional paper ORB record keeping until such time as MARPOL amendments come into force (i.e. allowing for paperless record-keeping) when the ε-ORB will allow software transparency, credibility and traceability regarding ORB entries.
The roadmap of converting paper log books into an electronic system is far from smooth.
Looking back at the ε-ORB’s roadmap, the journey had its fair share of challenges. Existing regulations and requirements with regards to ORB keeping, revolved around handmade entries. It took a lot of time and energy to obtain the industry’s attention on our position with regards to the future of paper logbooks: nowhere in MARPOL does it say that the ORB entries should be handwritten. Another challenge that needed to be addressed related to the most common functionality of every software, the ability to ‘edit’. An action not allowed by existing regulations while only a red line strikethrough of wrong entries was/is permitted. Moreover, all ORB entries and signing are required to take place immediately once an operation is completed. This, by default, was challenging due to the limitation of the functionalities that technology offered. Physical signatures by hand were accepted but at the same time physical signatures by using a signature pad were not accepted.
Admittedly the biggest challenge we had to overcome in converting paper log books was the human factor. The perception existed that the paper ORB was more secure and efficient than the electronic system. We also had to deal with the stakeholders who were at first hesitant to use the technology. Doubts existed whether senior officers (end users), could cope with the technology. Some were afraid of the audit trail functionality that the technology offered. Others were afraid of the limitations faced during data transfer ashore.
After considerable time and effort, we managed to overcome all obstacles as well as the reluctance we were up against, gaining the recognition of the industry including all major flag registries approving the ε-ORB software.
Change is here to stay...
We like to pleasantly surprise and we have proven this over the years with our vision to better the industry through innovative ideas. Companies involved in developing maritime software will be further challenged in the future by the industry to present user-friendly and ease of mind software products, essential to safeguard reputation, safety, security as well as the provision of high quality services in a limited time.
Developing widely recognized maritime software products is not an easy task and the key to success is the will of maritime technology companies to heavily invest in learning how the shipping industry actually operates. PaSea has been working towards this aim for the last 4 years. Despite initial resistance by the industry, the current trend indicates a glowing future for maritime software product development as the operational benefits become more and more apparent.
Everyone needs to adapt to Change in order to Survive…
”Don’t Cure, PREVENT”
For more details contact Prevention at sea, at:
Phone: +357 24 819800 | Fax: +357 24819881
The article appeared originally in the November issue of the The Naval Architect.