Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Digitalising OCIMF inspections for enhanced assurance

Photo: OCIMF Aaron Cooper, Programmes Director, OCIMF
Aaron Cooper, Programmes Director, OCIMF
OCIMF is overhauling its Ship Inspection Report Programme (SIRE) to future-proof the regime and enable it to evolve with changing risks and requirements.

Launched in 1993 to address concerns about sub-standard tanker shipping, this highly regarded regime has been updated in line with requirements over the years. It continues to serve the industry well with more than 180,000 inspection reports having been submitted to SIRE since its inception.

It is a unique tanker risk assessment tool used to assess a vessel's condition and operational standards, and reports are of great use to charterers, ship operators, terminal operators and government bodies concerned with ship safety.

Technology, risks, vessel design and operation have, however, moved on considerably since SIRE was first introduced. To ensure continued assurance for the industry, the OCIMF membership agreed a few years ago to overhaul the programme and introduce a new digitalised programme that will evolve with the industry as vessel operators and managers as well as crew respond to rapidly changing risks.

Known as SIRE 2.0, the new regime is a step-change for the industry and whilst ships’ crew and OCIMF-accredited inspectors will be most affected, all involved in the new reporting process will benefit. These include liquid bulk terminals and ports, and programme recipients – the charterers, oil companies and other interested parties that use the programme to assess vessels’ safety profiles.

Under SIRE 2.0, physical vessel inspections carried out by OCIMF-accredited inspectors will continue to take place, but the overall programme will be digitalised.

One obvious difference will be inspectors’ use of tablet devices to record their observations whilst onboard. Gone will be the notebook and pen synonymous with OCIMF inspectors, along with the standardised questionnaire, with assessments made based on ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.

Instead, all inspectors will carry an intrinsically safe tablet device installed with bespoke inspection software.

Specially developed software will generate a unique Compiled Vessel Inspection Questionnaire (CVIQ)  using an algorithm to select questions from a question library based on the type of vessel, its outfitting and information supplied by the vessel operator to create a bespoke risk-based inspection questionnaire.

Listen to an episode of the Seatrade Maritime Podcast on the outlook for the tanker market in 2023

As inspectors will be using tablet devices to report their observations in real time whilst onboard, reports can also be supported with photographic evidence (where permitted) for the first time ever, ensuring greater transparency and objectivity throughout the inspection process. There is also more room for context; questions in the CVIQ require the inspector to provide responses based on hardware, processes and human factors with observations graded from ‘not as expected’ through to, in the case of human factor responses, ‘exceeds expectation’.

In these ways, SIRE 2.0, will more accurately and transparently report on the quality of a vessel and its crew (on an ongoing basis) and indicate future likely performance, using enhanced tools, strengthened governance processes and more in-depth reporting outcomes, following a risk-based approach.

OCIMF recognises that whilst technology is an enabler of safe and efficient ship operations, human factors continue to be a key risk as well as a key risk mitigator across all aspects of ship operations. It also acknowledges that there is still much work to be done to address human risk factors. For these reasons, the new inspection process places a renewed focus on human factors, which in turn will encourage a change in culture and ultimately improve conditions for crew. This means under SIRE 2.0 there is an opportunity to demonstrate best practices and have excellence recognised.

A phased roll-out for SIRE 2.0

OCIMF realises that the new SIRE 2.0 is a significant change and it is vital that industry is fully prepared before full alignment with the new programme commences.

For this reason, the roll-out of the new programme will occur over four stages to allow for comprehensive testing and interrogation of the system, with a review of ‘critical success factors’ needing to be confirmed by the OCIMF membership before moving to the next stage. The organisation has also assured users of the programme that they will be provided with ample warning before each stage is progressed.

Phase 1: SIRE 2.0 internal testing – one-month User Acceptance Testing involving the OCIMF Secretariat and vessel operators that have previously been involved in SIRE 2.0 trial Inspections. The goal is to rigorously test the full end-to-end reporting process.

Phase 2: Beta test of full end-to-end process – a two-month testing period with optional participation from invited parties, with a goal to test the end-to-end process without assistance from OCIMF.

Phase 3: Unlimited beta test of full end-to-end process – a four-month transition period allowing participation for all programme users. The goal is to allow all submitting companies, vessel operators and programme recipients to use and familiarise with the SIRE 2.0 system prior to full launch.

Phase 4: SIRE VIQ7 withdrawn – SIRE 2.0 launches and replaces the existing SIRE system as the commercial tanker inspection programme.

Trial inspections have been taking place for well over a year and feedback from those involved has been positive. A SIRE 2.0 Inspector Transition Training Programme has been delivered to ensure all inspectors across the globe are prepared and so far, 491 inspectors have been trained.

OCIMF has also been developing the programme alongside all the various groups that will use it –inspectors, programme recipients, vessel operators and crew. It will continue to work with industry in this way during its phased implementation over the coming months.

Familiarisation materials have also been provided for all users of the SIRE 2.0 programme and are designed to be specific to each user group

In addition to documentation on policies and procedures, two sets of training videos are now available on the OCIMF website: one focussed on the shipboard side for masters, operators and crew, and a second set for vetters and operators.

These videos explain the human factors and technical aspects of the SIRE 2.0 inspection from each stakeholder’s perspective. They aim to help stakeholders identify the conditions and systems that influence their behaviour, while promoting safety and excellence across all operations.

Submitting companies, programme recipients and operators also have access to pre-recorded presentations covering issues such as human factors, and the layout and structure of the questions. These pre-recorded presentations may be used for any in-house training conducted by operators, submitting companies and programme recipients.

Stepping up to greater assurance

OCIMF understands the sensitivities surrounding the carriage through ports and terminals of tablets and other devices. It has investigated any and every eventuality in considering the use of tablet devices – not just from a software and inspection process perspective, but from a health and safety, and cyber perspective too.

The organisation is undertaking several initiatives to identify facilities where the use of tablet devices and/or cameras is known to be prohibited or restricted. Where such ports or terminals are identified and they potentially have a significant impact on the conduct of SIRE 2.0 inspections, OCIMF will engage and work with these ports or terminals with a view to implementing measures to allow the safe and secure use of the tablets.

The transition to the new regime is being carried out hand in hand with industry. And whilst SIRE 2.0 will look and feel very different to the existing SIRE programme the benefits to all involved in tanker safety will be long-lasting. SIRE 2.0 will transform the marine industry’s ability to understand and address issues of risk across tanker operations, to become altogether better positioned to respond to evolving risks and changing regulations.

** Additional and information about SIRE 2.0 are available on OCIMF’s website, at programmes/sire2-0, including the full SIRE 2.0 Question Library, training videos and supporting guidance materials.