Increasingly, Masters are finding themselves at the pointy end of criminal charges, facing heavy fines and imprisonment for pollution incidents and shipowners need to stop paying lip-service to anti-pollution regulations and get their act together, says the Nautical Institute.
In an article in the October issue of Seaways, the institute’s magazine, the NI says that shipowners need to get serious, and impress that seriousness on their crews. They need to make sure the right equipment and the right training is given and, says Captain Harry Gale, NI Technical Manager “Rules and management systems do not work in isolation. Urgent action is needed to ensure that people onboard have the equipment, the guidance, the motivation and empowerment needed to act on pollution”.
In a sttement, the NI says: “With so much attention across shipping focusing on the environment, there seems to be more than just pollution in the air, there is a real sense of urgency to make improvements and to make the current rules work.”
In exploring the issues and practicalities of day-to-day environmental shipboard management, the NI’s SeaGoing Correspondence Group (SGCG) has raised a number of concerns and has identified some disconcerting trends.
In examining why there appear such difficulties in complying, there are reportedly repeated failures by many owners to engage in a positive interpretation of the rules and procedures, and to communicate these to their shipmasters.
Environmental excellence and compliance shape our “green credentials”, it is vital therefore that in the face of vigorous policing and enforcement that pollution prevention requirements must be matched by positive onboard systems and encouragement.
The NI has identified a number of potential pitfalls in ensuring compliance, and these include poor equipment and maintenance, procedural problems and out dated practices, through to ill equipped port facilities.
In addition, owners need to convince those onboard that they are truly serious about tackling pollution. Companies cannot simply pay lip service to the rules, and tangible action is needed to guard against complacency, to mitigate the risks of mistakes, and to guard against errors of judgement. With the risk of enormous financial penalties and with jail time a real possibility, owners who simply relax and assume all is in order can get a real shock when things go wrong.
However, not all the problems stem from equipment or procedures, and the NI regretfully recognises the age-old “can do” attitude of many seafarers can be damaging. In too many instances there appears the problems of falsified records, and of a continued willingness to do what is thought best by an individual, even when that flies in the face of the Safety Management System (SMS).
According to Captain Gale, “Environmental crimes are sadly tarnishing the image of shipping. It is vital to remember that responsibility always rests with the owner, and it is not simply enough to put systems onto the ship – these need to be supported and made to work, to ensure the actions of those onboard are always the right actions”.