Safety is the primary concern of the SIRE vetting system, but with the human element a major contributor to issues, there are calls for a more data-based approach; Covid-19 may force the issue
Does the tanker vetting process need an overhaul? In a Riviera Maritime Media survey* 88% of respondents said it is time for the tanker vetting process to be renewed or re-thought, with 12% disagreeing. In another question put to webinar attendees, 68% said they felt the vetting system encourages trust and transparency, with 32% disagreeing.
Dania Ship Management general manager, head of vetting Torben Hertel said: “What we need is an assessment of safety, not a single inspection snapshot of the vessel.” Dania Ship Management’s parent company is V.Group, which operates ShipSure, a digital data-collection platform. Mr Hertel said there may be instances where a ship undergoes a poor vetting process, but the data trends observed via ShipSure may indicate the vessel is in fact safe.
Noting the subjective aspects of the risk management criteria employed by oil majors, Mr Hertel said there is a need to address and reduce inconsistencies between oil majors’ and inspectors’ interpretations of the VIQ7 (Vessel Inspection Questionnaire, 7th Edition) questions.
In light of the need for vetting to create value and enhanced transparency, Mr Hertel said it is debateable if the SIRE programme is still fit for purpose. He said it may be time to bring in more robust ways of measuring safety, perhaps by introducing a safety score system in contrast to traditional vetting practices.
AWP Marine Consultancy’s Capt Wyn Price, an active OCIMF SIRE auditor, defended the system. He encouraged vessel owners and operators to make the most of SIRE inspections by training staff with the VIQ and on how to engage with inspectors. Capt Price said: “Very often I find that the vessel staff are not aware of what the inspector requires and often they are quite distracted from the inspection itself and have no real interest in the process.”
“We need an assessment of safety, not a single inspection snapshot of the vessel”
In response to a question asking if different SIRE inspectors come to different outcomes when vetting the same vessel, Capt Price said this may indicate a lack of understanding on the part of the inspectors, but that vessel staff may also give differing responses to questions: “Different personnel may understand questions in a different way,” he said. Inspectors are offered a refresher course as part of their training to help interpret new legislation.
PSC inspections have become more integral to the overall vetting process, which in turn has increased scrutiny of SIRE reports. Capt Price added that the system currently means that as PSC inspectors become more highly trained, their reports gain more credibility.
However, SIRE’s aims are shifting Capt Price said, and VIQ7 is now more focused toward crew competence, which is, in his view, the appropriate area to focus on. He said priority should be given to training and competence of seafarers and a demonstration of operational knowledge on board; he noted paperwork should be reduced.
Capt Price said he believes that SIRE remains an important way of benchmarking safety and that physical inspections remain a key part of the safety process; he said physical inspections are indispensable.
The physical inspection element was something that was taken for granted pre Covid-19, but OCIMF has been quick to adjust to the logistical problems that now hinder physical inspections. The main provision involves remote inspections, which will relieve the backlog and reduce the burden on operators.
OCIMF managing director Rob Drysdale explained the rationale: “In some circumstances, Covid-19 is limiting the ability of an OCIMF inspector to be physically present on board a vessel to carry out an inspection. To ensure our inspection regimes continue, and without unduly exposing the inspector or the vessel’s crew to the risk of a Covid-19 infection, we are now able to offer remote inspections.”
He continued: “However, I stress that remote inspections are offered as a temporary additional resource when physical inspections are not feasible. They are not a replacement for our existing programme of physical inspections. The choice of opting for a remote inspection lies entirely with the company that is commissioning the inspection and it is up to individual programme recipient companies to decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to accept the remote inspection. Therefore, acceptance of the remote inspection cannot be guaranteed.”
Supporting guidance issued by OCIMF on the use of remote inspections advises that virtual options should be used as an additional option to enhance data collection where physical inspections are not possible due to Covid-19.
Remote inspections will require the vessel operator to complete a detailed questionnaire and upload a series of documents and certificates to a dedicated online repository. This information will be reviewed remotely by an OCIMF inspector, who will be required to complete a further questionnaire drawing on the vessel operator’s information and by requesting further details from the vessel by telephone/video. Information supplied will include certificates, documents and photograph files.
Mr Drysdale said: “Like all our colleagues in the oil and gas and maritime industries, we must adapt to the changing coronavirus environment and introduce new ways of working that protect our people. At the same time, we must ensure we maintain the exceptionally high standards of safety and operational processes that OCIMF members rightly insist upon. We have successfully trialled the remote inspection regime and conducted a robust management of change process with good results and we are now ready to roll it out, on a temporary basis, across the OCIMF community.”
OCIMF is currently undergoing a major overhaul of its committee structures to identify and mitigate issues of the highest risk to its members and to the marine industry. While its scope of operations and remit remains the same, the volunteer organisation’s strategy places a renewed emphasis on the way it identifies, analyses and assesses the issues that have the biggest impact on safety, the natural environment and property.
Using a risks and barriers (or bowtie) methodology, a newly established risk advisory function within the OCIMF Secretariat is now responsible for identifying those risks that are most likely to impact on the activities of OCIMF members.
*Survey conducted during the Is tanker vetting fit for purpose? webinar held during Riviera Maritime Media’s Tanker Shipping & Trade Webinar Week.
Inspections: physical or virtual?
While OCIMF will not influence the decision to choose a remote inspection over a physical inspection, it does offer a number of factors that should be considered, these include but are not limited to: