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DNV GL goes back to the future with call for renewed safety focus

DNV GL – Maritime ceo Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen always likes to begin his presentation with a song title encapsulating the message, and yesterday he chose Sting’s “Forget About the Future” to introduce his call for a ‘back to basics’ approach to marine safety.

Three series of “tectonic shifts” are taking place within the industry, in the area of more unpredictable “Markets”; increasingly complex and onerous “Regulations”, especially environmental; and the advent of new “Technology”, he told the class society’s annual press conference in London.

But this emphasis on a largely unknowable future has “arguably led to less focus on marine safety,” he argued, when it remains “crucial to put safety at the core.”

“The industry has to apply a holistic approach with prime attention to safety” when considering new operational procedures, regulations and technologies, he urged.

Marine safety may be improving, in terms of the absolute numbers of casualties, admitted the immediate past president of IACS (International Association of Classification Societies), but there’s no room for complacency, especially since today’s associated risks are even larger.

Ørbeck-Nilssen therefore outlined five concrete proposals for the industry to follow:

• develop holistic regulations with safety at the core;

• impose a safety culture;

• unlock data silos for deeper insights into incidents and near-misses;

• increase transparency on safety findings; and

• apply barrier management techniques inspired by other industries such as oil & gas and aviation.

Specifically Ørbeck-Nilssen suggested that a casualty investigations should be reported to the IMO within a mandatory timeframe, and that the IACS’ ongoing work with IMO might be the “proper channel” for such safety improvements and a “good place to start”

The three areas of “tectonic shift” also carried their own safety challenges, he pointed out, such as market-driven increases in ship size and faster port turnarounds, regulatory inspired risks associated with the management of new fuels and contamination issues, and the greater cyber resilience demands of advanced technology.

On the topical issue of container safety, the Maritime ceo pointed out DNV GL’s own experience that the uptake of its voluntary notations to prevent onboard fires has been “very limited” within the liner industry.

“We’ve been concerned over weights of containers for some time now,” he stated. “Now it’s time for the industry to be concerned with what’s inside containers… and [what] could cause these fires in the first place.”

Read more: Counting the costs of fires at sea

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