Creating Clarity in Compliance

How a digital database of marine regulations can play a vital role in maintaining compliance throughout maritime voyages.

If you’re of a mind that there are altogether too many regulations in everyday life, you might spare a thought for mariners. Personnel involved in commercial maritime operations both ashore and aboard are required to be well-versed with a long list of regulations that vessels must comply with. Some of these regulations are universal, mandated by UN entities like the IMO and ILO. Other regulations are specific to countries, regions, ports and other even smaller areas. To make matters more complicated, maritime regulations are often quite specific in scope, and only apply at certain times of year or to vessels of a specific class, size or with certain equipment.

While industry bodies are gradually streamlining and synchronizing their regulations in an attempt at simplicity, the picture as it stands is still complex and confusing. Furthermore, new benchmarks for environmental standards are about to come into force. New requirements for EEXI (energy efficiency existing ship index) and CII (carbon intensity indicator) entering into force on 1 November, 2022, are expected to have broad implications for commercial maritime organisations that operate internationally.

The increasingly stringent regulatory landscape demands exceptional levels of vigilance and agility on the part of ship owners and operators. Many of these regulatory changes necessitate fundamental and potentially disruptive upheavals of vessel operations and infrastructure. Taking the CII and EEXI benchmarks as examples, the time and effort required to bring fleets in compliance with new standards is expected to be considerable. In particular, the technical and practical adaptations required to accommodate developments such as alternative fuels and hybrid propulsion systems are expected to be numerous.

Though they may not always be welcome, inspections are a necessary exercise for ensuring safe, responsible seafaring practices are maintained throughout the industry.

Area-Specific Regulations

It’s important to remember that these stringent new carbon reduction measures are essential steps towards meeting climate targets. As the threat to marine ecosystems intensifies and environmental science evolves, new restrictions play a vital role in correcting and preventing further damage. For ship owners and operators, however, the incentive is more than just moral and ethical; regulatory bodies have the power to impose hefty sanctions for regulatory infringements. A well-documented example is the a recent $3 million fine levied on the owners and operators of a tanker vessel in 2019, for using fuel exceeding legal concentrations of sulphur.

In such instances, the accused companies will already be losing money rapidly while the vessel is off-hire and under investigation. These adverse ramifications then travel up the supply chain, causing further financial damage and – perhaps even more importantly – reputational damage. Parties found guilty of even unintentional environmental breaches might struggle to rebuild trust in business relationships and the market at large thereafter.

Clearly, the importance of following best practices to ensure constant compliance cannot be underestimated. This diligence cannot be allowed to slip for even a moment as ships traverse global trading routes, passing through geographical areas and environmental zones where any number of area-specific regulations apply.

Uninterrupted Access

It’s for this reason that having continuous, uninterrupted, onboard access to an up-to-date regulatory database – even when no internet connectivity is available – is so indispensable. OneOcean’s Regs4ships provides exactly that, collating a complete digital library of live and archived official nautical documents and presenting them within a single, convenient and time-saving portal.

This resource simultaneously ensures compliance and helps prove it to inspectors. Among its most beneficial features is search functionality, which encompasses multiple sources of regulatory requirements, enabling users to instantly verify regulations pertaining to particular routes, flag states and sea areas. Just as crucial is that Regs4ships clearly lists and displays forthcoming regulatory amendments. In a commercial arena where compliance issues can have ruinous effects right along a supply chain, forewarned is most definitely forearmed.

The OneOcean portfolio, which also includes solutions such as Passage Manager, FleetManager, EnviroManager and Docmap, can enable maritime stakeholders to maintain comprehensive compliance management. Shoreside teams can better work with bridge leaders in the passage planning process to plot routes and plan operational events that maintain compliance. Users can also search and access all relevant legislation pertaining to their routes, cargo, and vessels directly through the digital database to evaluate when and where vessels can safely undertake specific actions.

OneOcean’s EnviroManager+ provides shoreside teams with a means of applying standardised company policies across an entire fleet. These internal policies appear to users aboard through the OneOcean platform. If so desired, these policies can default to a higher level of compliance to further prevent the risk of fines.

By removing doubt and ignorance from the maritime compliance landscape, digital assets of this nature greatly reduce the many potential pitfalls that can arise from negligence, inattentiveness and human error. It isn’t an exaggeration to conclude that conducting business at sea without a means of quickly discerning all relevant regulations in force will soon become impossible for commercial maritime organisations.

25 November 2021