By Mayuresh Jayade, DPA / Group Marine & Safety Manager
The entire first half of 2020 has been unusually difficult for all of us due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Shipping hubs and ports were severely affected.
After a substantial period of lockdown, we are witnessing the gradual opening of activities including air travel as no country can afford to let their economy suffer. So this is evident in shipping related activities where essential visitors are permitted to board vessels for statutory tasks. Personal safety with enhanced PPE, personal declaration on health status, social distancing and several health checkpoints from the entry gate of the terminal to the gangway of a vessel are procedures that have to be followed in the “new normal”.
Port state control inspections is one such statutory activity reinstated, as required, under local jurisdiction of sovereign coastal states.
Between January to June 2020, we recorded nearly 167 inspections which resulted in 103 observations, achieving an impressive average of 0.62, well within the group KPI of 0.90.
We expect the number of inspections to slowly rise in second half of 2020. There will be a number of unprecedented challenges and as a company, we need to face them head-on.
The onboard crews play a pivotal role in ensuring good PSC inspections as compliance to SMS and ensuring periodic and pre- arrival checks on safety critical equipment is crucial. The right state of mind is the key driving factor to effectively achieve compliance. Delays in crew sign offs and extended contracts beyond 11 months is detrimental to our overall performance in PSC.
One of the biggest concerns is to establish normalcy in crew changes and ensure our crews are relieved on time. PSC officers are increasingly scrutinizing crew contracts and often take their lead from the ITF’s whistle blowing cases to initiate expanded inspections. Should there be any objective evidence that crew changes were not planned in-spite of favourable travel routes or alternate arrangements, it may be construed as grounds for detention.
Teamwork is embedded deep in Thome’s core and we need to embrace it even more in these trying times. Our procedures are robust and management ashore is fully committed to support masters and crew in every situation. We have established a dedicated task force to work with internal and external stakeholders like flag states, ITF etc. to safeguard our seafarers’ welfare.
A healthy state of mind, wellness onboard and a feeling of togetherness will help us steer through a tough recovery and slide into the “new normal”. This is easier said than done, so the vessels and shore staff need to team up to overcome any hurdles.
It is likely that major PSC MoU will not undertake any Concentrated Inspections Campaigns (CICs) this year and the IMO has advised member states to take a pragmatic approach during inspections and not penalize vessels for certification, documentation etc which could not be maintained during the lock-down period.
However, all vessels must ensure operational readiness of emergency equipment such as lifeboats, generators, fire pumps and MARPOL etc. as any deficiency in these categories will not be pardoned by a PSC officer.