Safety and security: a 360-degree view

Creating a safety culture is key to passenger shipping, whether through regulations, technology or good practice in human resources management. Susan Parker hears what’s top of the list for decision makers in various parts of the industry

Safety and security: a 360-degree view
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2015 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review.

The industry body

Safety and security are integral to the cruise industry. If anyone knows that, it is Bud Darr, VP technical and regulatory affairs, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). “Safety is not just fundamental to our business; it really goes to the very core of who we are and it has to,” says Darr. “Safety needs to continuously improve, both top-down and bottom-up, and must be taken into account in everything we do, day by day.”

Certainly there is no competition between the cruise lines in this respect. The level of cooperation is very high as any incident on any ship, regardless of brand, reflects on the whole industry. “The interaction between the people and innovative new equipment will continue to remain very important going forward,” says Darr. “It is crucial that those designing the technological advances are matched by advances between the interaction of the operations themselves.”

What is vital is that as equipment is designed this goes hand in hand with the human element. When it comes to, for example, the latest generation of ECDIS, “there has to be training and familiarity with the operators to go with it, as well as integration of those tools with the human side of interacting on the bridge”, he points out.

Lifeboat technology is another area of constant development. Some now have multiple engines and toilets installed. The ability to embark passengers in large numbers is under constant review. Safety lifting gear that is reliable and can be deployed safely both during operation and testing is key. As the technology for electronic mustering and communications systems evolves, the capability for interoperability with other systems onboard is improved. “It is much more useful if it doesn’t operate individually,” says Darr.

Also being explored is the feasibility of man-overboard detection systems, both with internal and external stakeholders. “We have not yet seen a system which is ready for wide-scale implementation and deployment but the search continues. One of the real concerns is that a system has to find the right balance between detection and an acceptable number of false negatives or false positives,” he explains. It has to be such that it can be relied on in a situation at sea, “bearing in mind that there are a very small number of incidents that could potentially benefit from this system”.

In its efforts to continuously improve, CLIA also liaises with other sectors such as cargo shipping, aviation and the medical community. Darr cites an example: “With one particular tanker operator we have held joint workshops, shared practices on simulators, walked through bridges and processes and discussed how to implement a better safety culture. They learned from us and we from them.”

The cruise operator
For cruise operators, understanding risk is crucial, says Robin Lindsay, EVP vessel operations at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (overseeing Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises). “By evaluating risk information of countries, regions and areas of interest, we can better understand the nature of a possible threat and the level of action required to reduce the risk of being exposed to an incident. Knowing that we cannot predict the future, we do know that by taking prudent steps we can reduce the risks of potential incidents shoreside.”

As far as safety is concerned, he says: “Operationalising safety culture requires an integration throughout an organisation of leadership-driven values, practices, behaviours, training and performance, which leads to the continuous reduction of incidents. It can’t be the isolated accountability of one team. Every level of leadership in every team in the company has to be onboard with it.

“One of the key factors to improve a safety culture and best practice is having a well-documented and systematic approach to manage and reduce risk, and to promote continual improvement in all aspects of safety – from organisational structures, resources, and accountabilities to policies, processes and procedures.”

Lindsay points out that Safe Return to Port regulations mean looking at a variety of scenarios and creating safe areas onboard in which key systems continue to be operational and provide service to passengers. These include sanitation, water, food and medical care for a duration of 100 hours and the possibility to return to port located 1,000nm away in certain environmental conditions.

Developments in ship structure and design are providing ongoing improvement to the safety of passengers, in his opinion. “The duplication of ship’s equipment and attention to details are parts of the key points to building safer ships. Electronic mustering with automatic account systems is now being used on larger ships to allow faster and more accurate counting in case of emergency. In addition the International Maritime Organization has put forth immediate and future actions to enhance passenger ship safety. One of the actions includes a comprehensive assessment of the critical human factors and operational aspects of maritime safety and the development of comprehensive best practices for industry-wide implementation.”

Lindsay adds: “In the cruise business, management systems and other factors play a key role and are tested every day in an effort to run a safe and secure operation. Cruise line organisations regularly employ internal and external subject matter experts that assess, evaluate and recommend systematic improvement in order to effectively manage successful, safe and secure operations.

“On a regular basis safety and security commonalities are targeted, tracked and measured in an effort to isolate and eliminate root causes of areas of deficiency. This is a continuous cycle that utilises state-of-the-art equipment and applications. For example, there are diverse camera systems that include complex analytic software in conjunction with alarm systems that support safety and security as well as other systems and programmes.”

The ferry operator
At UK ferry operator Red Funnel, safety and security are taken very seriously, as Mark Slawson, fleet and technical director, explains: “The company is using technology to ensure that we know who we have on board. It starts from the moment passengers first contact us. Whether online or by phone, we can track an inquiry. We have automatic number plate recognition for the cars, so we know it will feed into the ship and we then know we have the right number of people and that the names match. We count them on and we count them off again.”

This has the added benefit of being able to provide the number of crew suited to the number of passengers onboard. Because the journey is only an hour across the Solent in Southampton, UK, there is no safety drill onboard but this does not mean the crew members are not trained in crowd control. “We have to focus on there not being any panic. Staff have to be aware of the type of people we are carrying and how to handle them in the right way.” The company recently put its staff and crew through a two-day training programme based on the Myers Briggs personality test so that they can recognise the different types of people they are dealing with.

As far as the maritime crew are concerned, Slawson says: “We overqualify our people. Legally we don’t need any more qualifications than a boat master’s licence and engineer’s watch certificate but we go beyond that. If you are taking 900 people across the Solent you don’t want to do it on a minimum of training staff and qualification.”

Red Funnel has a good safety record but Slawson comments: “In our particular operation, the combination of the regularity of passages and operations and the confidence of crew members in their roles, coupled with their familiarity with the operations, can create the potential for a reduction in safety/situational awareness. Both the very experienced and also newer employees can be affected. Complacency reduces levels of alertness for the task and degrades appreciation of risk, and paves the way for potentially serious consequences.”

He would expect any further improvements to arise on the human factor front going forward. “In my view, this sector could be more proactive in its approach and we should not wait for new, revised or reactive statutory requirements regarding safety management of domestic ferries. In Red Funnel, we aim to go above and beyond minimal compliance; our approach is based on risk assessments.”

The service provider
Olaf Groeger, director of Columbia Cruise Services, sees the human factor as an area likely to grow in importance in safety systems, in particular where training is concerned. “We anticipate a stronger emphasis on the human element. In the event of an emergency, a well-trained crew is essential for reacting with professionalism to bring a situation under control. Training should not only focus on theory – strong teamwork is vital for bringing a dangerous situation under control. Good leadership skills directly affect the atmosphere onboard, and can help suppress panic amongst passengers.”

He adds: “After any vessel incident, lessons learned must continue to be studied, shared and implemented. Training programmes built upon these lessons are the key to increased safety standards.”

Groeger says Columbia is putting this approach into practice in several ways: “Together with our clients we are upgrading shipboard IT systems, including integrated eMustering and security control modules. Emergency drills ought to be carried out without compromise and quickly with utmost precision.”

When it comes to safety for passengers when they go onshore, Groeger says: “Travel warnings issued by the Federal Foreign Offices should be taken seriously when planning excursion itineraries. To enhance safety awareness, partner agencies operating day tours need to undergo a safety control questionnaire.

“Local authorities must inform passenger vessels of any possible escalation, especially in areas prone to violent conflicts/increased terrorist activity. Crew must ensure all safety decisions relating to passenger outings are carefully considered before each port call. Managers need to advise owners of potential risks and keep them appraised and if in doubt cruises have to be omitted.”

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Susan Parker
By Susan Parker
18 December 2015

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