The Container Ship Safety Forum is helping to raise operational standards across the box ship sector. Its chairman and Maersk head of marine standards Aslak Ross explains how Maersk and other members are benefiting
Maersk Line head of Marine Standards Aslak Ross has emphasised the importance of the Container Ship Safety Forum (CSSF) to the container ship sector, from benchmarking to encouraging the take up of new methods to deal with challenges. And he singled out how Maersk itself has benefited from the forum.
The CSSF launched in 2014 with seven members and now has 23 members – a figure Mr Ross is eager to grow. He is a founding member and chairman of the forum, where for the first time, leading container ship operators have come together to improve safety standards.
The forum is focused on improving container ship operations and crew safety. Mr Ross emphasises the focus on areas unique to container ships. “We focus on what is unique for this industry, so that includes deck and cargo operations, and what is involved with carrying a container. Firefighting is relevant to this, as is lashing.” This involves CSSF looking at areas including access to the lashing bridge, officers moving around on deck and preventing crew from falling from lashing bridges etc.
Explaining why the forum was established, Mr Ross says “We are a number of owners that have a focus on safety and thought we could do more in this space. Other industries have had forums for a number of years, but there has been nothing in this sector. This means there has been no benchmarking, so we are not able to gauge what problems we are facing as an industry. We have a desire to take care of our people and make sure ships are safe places to work.”
All the container ship operators in the forum are like-minded, he said, and agreed at the start that more needed to be done in this space.
A major initiative of the CSSF is benchmarking data. Mr Ross expands “We all thought it would be good to start pooling our data to get a better insight into what the issues are and create a network of people with the same problems. More or less every company has accidents from time to time and there is not a large data set on this. By pooling the data, we have so much more information to work from. It allows us better insight into the pain points.” This creates a foundation for developing common safety standards and using key performance indicators.
Mr Ross emphasises “The starting point of this initiative was very much about people safety, how do we take care of people’s safety? How can we avoid severe accidents and fatalities?”
He explains that the basis of the benchmarking is developed from ISM code compliance, looking at all operational areas the code covers. The forum also looks at asset safety, such as how to reduce groundings, fires on board and cargo issues. Mr Ross says that all metrics in these areas have been developed to enable benchmarking.
Mr Ross says “And even more important than benchmarks, which tell you how you are doing compared to the industry, is to get deeper insight into the pain points and see what the risks are.”
He explains how Maersk uses the data: the shipping line looks at its own data, then at the CSSF data to verify its own observations and give the company direction as to where it needs to look to see where the problems lie and the right solutions to use.
CSSF holds two meetings a year where all members come together to meet and discuss the latest topics and issues. The next meeting is a seminar in May in Singapore. Mr Ross explains “At these meetings our data report is presented and then we steer our discussions about ‘how can I deal with this?’ and ‘what have you done successfully?’ and so forth.”
In between meetings, members meet for work groups to target certain issues as well as emailing to discuss issues. A major benefit of the forum is that members can exchange best practice ideas.
Mr Ross says “We email each other about ‘how are you dealing with this?’ ‘I am seeing this in our fleet, are you?’ ‘Do you use helmets when your crew do a specific operation?’”
The discussions come down to very detailed areas, such as what kind of gloves are used for specific tasks. “We also ask each other about more structural areas, such as ‘what should the fire response team be on a ship?’ or ‘what kind of equipment should you have?’ or about the capabilities of firefighting equipment.”
He points out that Maersk had benefited from this and introduced new initiatives on the back of discussions with the CSSF and learning from the other member carriers. An example is that Maersk has introduced a thermal camera on board every ship in the fleet. This is used for screening hot and cold radiation for energy leaks, and can spot hotspots, such as on the auxiliary engines around the exhaust system, which could suggest a problem with the insulation or lagging around hot surfaces.
By spotting this with the camera, the issue can be dealt with so that if the oil leaks, it does not spray on a hot surface or ignite. It can also be used to help with firefighting. “We can go to a cargo hold and if there is smoke, scan the containers. The camera will pinpoint which one is too hot, through giving us a red image, and so lead us to the fire.”
This piece of equipment has been well received by Maersk’s officers. Mr Ross says “This has had positive feedback. We discussed it with officers they said it was great, that they used it so much for preventative maintenance and said they really appreciated it. It is just a detail but shows that we have learnt something from the forum.
“It is a concrete example about how we have learnt from the experience of another company, where we have found we were facing the same problem and adopted their solution.”
Another direct impact of Maersk’s work with CSSF is that the company has rolled out a fast response kit to extinguish a fire on deck. Mr Ross says “This is a light piece of equipment which means that officers can easily run out and extinguish a container fire on deck. The thermal camera is part of that package, as is a drilling machine which means that crew can penetrate the container, and it also includes a lighter hose than the standard ones usually used. It is all in a rucksack that someone can quickly put on their back and run out and start firefighting much sooner, so it allows a faster response.
“This comes from our discussions at CSSF workshops and meetings. We discuss how to protect the ship from fire and what kind of firefighting capacity would be good. It gives us inspiration for the current fleet and future newbuilds.”
Other recent discussions involve how to carry out a navigational audit to ensure there is good navigational discipline. “We ask each other: do you use simulation training, how do you use it? When we have these discussions, I always go away with a notebook full of notes.”
Mr Ross is keen to grow the CSSF and have as many container operator members as possible.
He sums up “We hope to create awareness in the industry that safety is important and driven by the values of companies which believe that taking care of their people is important. That is the driver – we can move forward together and become even safer.”
CSSF’s next meeting is on 13-14 May in Singapore.
Snapshot CV: Aslak Ross (Maersk)
Aslak Ross started his career with Maersk 25 years ago as a marine engineer apprentice. He subsequently studied for navigator and master mariner qualifications and sailed as both deck and engine officer on board Maersk vessels. He worked as a teacher at Maersk’s maritime training academy and was responsible for quality management of the educational programmes. He worked as an auditor in Maersk’s internal audit function before he became head of marine standards and DPA seven years ago. Responsibilities include all HSSEQ matters for vessel operation, danger cargo, end-to-end processes and HSE management for the logistic operations of Maersk. Mr Ross is the first chairman of CSSF.