Safety at Sea

Actual compliance with the code is the responsibility of the ship owner and the ship manager to whom the owner has entrusted the vessel.  There are however some significant implications for the Charterer. The introduction of the code was intended to create a new culture of safety at sea whereby accidents and particularly pollution incidents would not be tolerated.  When an accident happens in ‘high profile’ waters the public want someone to blame. In the case of the loss of the tanker ‘Erika’ off the coast of France in 2000 much of the blame for the serious oil pollution of the French holiday beaches attached to the Charterers, the French oil company Elf TotalFina, because unlike the owners they had a very obvious public image. Initially the major maritime states including the USA, European Community, Norway, Australia, Canada and Japan embraced the Code wholeheartedly while others especially some minor maritime nations in the Far East were less enthusiastic. More recently the doubters have seen the benefits and today the Code is enforced by most flag and port states. The Code requires formal procedures for all activity relating to the safe management and operation of the vessel both in the offices ashore and in the ship afloat.  In the same way as in other ‘quality systems’ the procedures need to be fully documented. While documented Ship and Safety Management systems can be bought off the shelf these will still need to be substantially tailored to the requirements of the individual company, the types of vessels it operates and even the trade routes with which it is involved.  The best practice is to write the procedures in-house so that they reflect the best actual practice used in the company. All employees both ashore and afloat need to be inducted into the system although the degree of involvement will vary greatly with seniority and areas of responsibility.