By Jamie Morgan Ramsamy, Quality Assurance Manager
Managing risks and processes to ensure safe and reliable operationsis a daily activity at Thome. Risks are identified and controls are embedded within our procedures to ensure that we safeguard our personnel, the environment, and our client’s interests at large. However, an organisation needs to also plan to address threats that are larger in scope even though their likelihoods are less than our day to day operations. Failing to do so will not only disrupt the delivery of our services but can also potentially cripple the organisation.
The ability for an organisation to efficiently and effectively bounce back after a low occurring highly impactful event is a measure of its resilience and this is where business continuity planning is vital. Planning of this nature is a sub-set of risk management and therefore follows a similar methodology.
Whilst low occurring and highly impactful events can be extensive, the reality is that Thome’s BCP, after extensive research and analysis, addresses those events which are most likely to severely disrupt our global operation based on historical and empirical evidence. The journey towards developing and implementing a robust BCP required us to scrutinise our operations more closely than ever before and the coordinated effort across all levels of the organisation ultimately led to a response plan that can manage our biggest organisational risks.
A business impact analysis allowed us to prioritise and divert resources to critical business functions. Unlike other organisations, shipping is an essential industry and is the backbone of the global supply chain. Therefore, it was insufficient for us to rely upon a delay recovery period of critical business functions. Instead, we set the ambitious target of zero-delayed recovery and planned all response actions around this vision.
All scenarios, which we had identified that could potentially cripple the organisation, showed us that there was a critical need to have a robust, resilient and intelligently designed IT infrastructure system which would allow our employees both ashore and onboard our managed vessels, to seamlessly make a transition in the event of a major disaster. Since Thome had already embarked on its journey towards digitalisation, there was a synergy that allowed us to collaborate and execute actions in a manner that did not subvert other long term goals and objectives.
Planning for the IT infrastructure and reviewing our internal business processes helped us identify areas where digitalised execution of tasks was not necessarily possible in some areas. This lead to the development of “manual-mode” transition strategies to be developed to meet interim needs. Manual-mode processes were additionally reviewed to determine the viability of developing methods to migrate them to more a digitalised approach.
It is as equally important to recognise the need to have a centralised response team coordinating all efforts in addressing the threat, managing response and establishing a path towards recovery. Therefore, a crisis management team was created with dedicated roles and responsibilities. Upon activation of the plan, this team would be the centralised response unit to assess the nature of the event, develop stakeholder action plans, assess and control information flow and continually manage the threat.
The planning and coordination that lead to the creation of our BCP, ultimately saw us activating our pandemic response plan during initial outbreak of COVID-19. Whilst the virus has had an impact that is larger than anything seen in recent memory, the development of systems, processes, tools, and actions, helped us to see minimal disruptions in our services.