Leading on from the Hamburg discussion forum and the comments of shipowners there, we were keen to use Posidonia to talk to the people whose job it is to sign off on safety.
Talking to classification societies and flag states who provide this auditing and inspection role, it soon became clear that – to coin a World Cup phrase – this is a game of two halves.
It is a common grumble that the shipping industry needs ‘unified rules’ or ‘common standards’ that can be more easily understoof and applied by hardware manufacturers and chart providers and delivered into the waiting hands of shipowners.
In fact, the flags themselves say that owners need to understand the limitations of international treaties and how they are implemented into national laws which givern their operations.
But before this gets too legalistic, it’s worth remembering that the flags too have a commercial dimension which makes explaining how the rules work and helping shipowners achieve ‘business as usual’ a big part of their reason to exist.
One of the issue is certainly that IMO rules and regulations set minimum standards that apply across classes or types of vessels. That’s fine for some flag states but many consider these too low for their liking and put a greater emphasis on demonstrating that risks are managed as well as possible.
The real challenge then, seems to be about closing the knowledge gap and encouraging a collaborative approach to safety. The truth is certainly out there and the shift to digital navigation makes it imperative that all stakeholders understand what it means for them.
It definitely means teamwork on and off the pitch and a clear eye on making the transition safe and sustainable. As the flag states reminded us, preparation is also a process that can never start too early.