Friday, December 12, 2014

Time for Freight and Passenger Vessel Operators to Man Up

Maritime Unions Will Closely Monitor Crewing Levels from January 2015
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the organisation which draws together the views and campaigns of unions involved in the shipping and logistics fields and beyond, is getting set for 2015 changes in the determination of safe manning of vessels, which come as a result of new International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirements. Historically crew levels on freight and passenger ships can vary widely, often influenced by the flag state but over the past three years the IMO has redefined the concept of safe manning of vessels and as a result, as from January, conditions should change.

Flag states and shipowners must now safely and transparently meet the unique operational and administrative needs of each vessel. Until now minimum safe manning was certified in accordance with company proposals which were then rubber-stamped by the flag state, and which took into account only the vessel’s ability to navigate and manage basic emergencies. No allowance had been made for other crew duties, taking into account frequency of port calls, cargo operations, maintenance or administrative tasks. The ITF says the process has been open to abuse by companies seeking to cut costs by cutting crew size.

Minimally manned vessels have been shown to obviously directly impact crew fatigue and have been cited in numerous high profile groundings and collisions, many of which had disastrous consequences for the seafarers and the environment. It is somewhat ironic that whilst, in Europe at least, road haulage operators have to ensure proper rest periods for drivers or face prosecution, out at sea the rules are more lax.

IMO Assembly Resolution A27/Res.1047 outlines elements to consider when determining safe manning for all functions on a vessel. In addition the Maritime Safety Committee adopted a change to SOLAS and made an amendment to the International Safety Management (ISM) Code to ensure vessels are properly manned. ITF IMO accredited representative Branko Berlan explained:

“Although regulatory changes happened in 2011 and 2012, administrations, companies and port state control inspectors have yet to implement them. The cumulative effect of these latest actions is that they will be legally required to do so. Seafarer’s organisations need to become more proactive by using the media and legal system to force the proper determination of vessel manning in a transparent way. Ultimately these changes are about seafarer safety, that’s why we’re so keen to make sure our affiliates know about them and can take steps to make them a reality. Only a concerted effort to force the implementation of these IMO instruments will result in properly manned vessels.”