Staying on Top of the Regulatory Seascape

Bridge officer consulting regulatory database

Responding to compliance requirements can take time, effort and money.

Maritime regulations are increasing in number, becoming stricter, and are require more and more time to track, understand and communicate throughout fleets. At the same time, there is a web of both international and local rules that have to be followed in order to avoid hefty fines and reputational damage.

Not only do ship owners and operators need to know about new and changing regulations, they need to know about them well in advance if they are to make the necessary compliance adjustments in time. Delay can be extremely costly; staying on top of all regulations is therefore increasingly an industry priority.

It’s not easy. There are just so many regulations to track and so many actions to take to ensure compliance. For example, while the IMO is working on a global scale to prevent sea accidents, ensure safety, protect the environment, reduce emissions, and promote its 2050 greenhouse gas reduction plan, there are a host of national, regional, and local authority regulations in place to protect wildlife, ensure fair and safe working conditions, and generally lower the impact of shipping on local environments.

Impacting Examples

Many regulatory changes and modifications are relatively small, though none the less important. Every now and then, though, the industry faces new stipulations that have a significant impact on operations.

One such example is the 2004 Ballast Water Management Convention. Resolution MEPC.173 to Marpol Annex 3 stipulates that from 2024 all ships are required to have an approved Ballast Water Management System (BWMS) in place. This is an important regulation and one that has been imposed with good reason. It is aimed at preventing the spread of invasive aquatic organisms from one region to another, and at halting damage to the marine environment from ballast water discharge.

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) was adopted by the IMO in 2004 requiring all ships to implement a ballast water management plan. All ships have to carry a ballast water record book and are required to carry out ballast water management procedures to a given standard.

This was a disruptive requirement that still demands attention and appropriate response while imposing significant costs to ship owners and managers. Installing ballast water management systems to existing vessels can require an investment in the region of 5 million US Dollars, after which comes the cost of maintenance, as well as day-to-day operational costs. The approval process is not cheap either, and that too is the responsibility of the owner. Crew training also has to be carried out to be sure that the system is correctly operated.

Another regulation that has had a notable impact on the industry is the Fire Safety Standards regulation. This came very much to the industry’s attention in 2012 when the Tokyo MOU carried out a Joint Concentrated Inspection Campaign (CIC) together with the Paris MOU on Port State Control of fire safety systems. This campaign was focused on compliance with SOLAS requirements on inspected ships.

This was all well and good, and well intentioned. The problem was that in order to comply with these regulations and pass seemingly endless inspections, vessels would have to conform to complicated standards, depending on the type of vessel – passenger, cargo or tanker – and the cargo being carried. Since compliance with the SOLAS fire regulations often necessitates existing vessels to be further equipped with systems, or that ready installed systems be modified or adjusted, fire safety infractions are relatively common. According to a report following thousands of inspections, the most common infraction was related to lack of fire drills.

In a vessel fire safety drill, all crew members should be assigned with tasks as per a muster list, taking into consideration the type of the vessel, any special compartments’ requirements and the availability of systems onboard.

Readiness requires understanding 

Basically, it comes down to a choice for owners and operators to either be proactive or reactive when it comes to regulatory compliance. Either the requirements are known well in advance and the appropriate preparations made, or last minute and often incomplete adjustments are made in the hope of avoiding fines. The fact is that readiness for full compliance demands time, effort and money. Companies need to invest in the vessel infrastructure and implement new standards, policies and procedures. A strategy for compliance needs to be developed, investments have to be planned and implemented, and the appropriate training has to be arranged and delivered.

OneOcean Group is a global leader in digital solutions for the maritime industry. The company offers a portfolio of solutions that allow fleet owners and operators to source relevant regulations from multiple bodies, communicate changes and enforce company policies, set high standards for safety and environmental compliance and gain oversight on how regulations and procedures are followed on vessels. Together, their solutions enable shoreside teams and crews to operate in compliance wit maritime regulations, in an organised and cost-effective way.

Remaining competitive in today’s challenging maritime environment involves maximising efficiencies, and this is as true with regulatory compliance as it is with all operational activities. Precise situational awareness is essential, since with the plethora of rules and regulations in place around the world it is so easy, for instance, to misunderstand a baseline or forget to account for a protected marine habitat along a sea route.

Staying on top of everything can be made simpler and more efficient with the right help at the right time. Contact us now to find out more: Contact us Now | OneOcean.

25 January 2022