Interorient Shipmanagement’s managing director Maurice Baker examines how employees’ expectations have been evolving since Covid-19 first hit
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will be with us for some time and its influence even longer. Employees’ expectations are changing to encompass a greater degree of flexibility in their work. We can break this down into two parts.
Starting with shore-based employees, the option to work from home has become a necessity, which has brought with it challenges and benefits. IT infrastructure and equipment has advanced to the stage that we all seem able now to operate from any location and meet on Zoom or Teams.
Some employees’ roles have been identified to work more successfully remotely, while some suffer without office interaction. Further efforts are required to establish clearer roles around these limitations, with possible changes to the scope of work. These remote working options have created opportunities for employee flexibility and a greater acceptance of remote employees, which can be beneficial for ship management operations.
Turning now to the fleet: crew have been badly affected by Covid-19 and the difficulties are continuing. The ongoing lack of a unified international approach to seafarers, travel and visas has added a great deal of frustration.
The ongoing problems have also highlighted the importance of good quality crew to successful operations and forced many to re-evaluate how best to assist and retain this crew. Interorient Shipmanagement is presently considering all of the following options: improved health care and family inclusions; pension arrangements to improve crew retention; provision for communications and subsidised internet access; onboard facilities for existing vessels; and greater consideration during the newbuilding.
“The ongoing lack of a unified international approach to seafarers has added a great deal of frustration”
Access to vessels has been impossible at times and difficult at best. This has driven the need for a new approach to carry out vessel management. Remote inspections and surveys have been found to have limitations and therefore efforts are required to identify these issues and improve them where possible. This may include the need for better connectivity and the development of affordable, intrinsically safe equipment to enable remote inspections.
There will be further use of 3D technology for onboard training, while remote assistant for troubleshooting needs to be enhanced and made available on board.
There is also a conflict between international regulations and technological development. Technology is changing rapidly and this will continue with increased pressure to comply with environmental targets. However, the high cost and limited incentives for various new technologies has restricted the speed of take up in the shipping industry and influenced the pace of development in new regulations.
Some technologies required to meet environmental targets are relatively new, or are yet to be developed. These technologies may include new materials and new fuels that are not covered in existing regulations. This may create difficulties and delays when implementing a new development.
Regulators may need to consider a more streamlined process to accelerate the inclusion of new technologies, balancing safety while not slowing the adoption of such technologies. For example, new fuel is required to meet low carbon targets and will require new infrastructure to be delivered to ships. The ships will require modifications to be able to store and operate safely on these fuels. This will draw on regulations from various sectors to develop maritime regulations.
The recent introduction of new technology in shipping includes ballast water treatment systems, and I am sure we can all agree, this process could have gone better.