2020 SAFETY4SEA Virtual Forum: Industry’s key priorities in the COVID-19 era

by 20, Oct, 2020Innovation

The event was organized by SAFETY4SEA having as lead sponsors the following organizations: MacGregor & SQE MARINE. The event was also sponsored by: ABS, American Club, Arcadia Shipmanagement Co Ltd, Blue Planet Shipping Ltd, Capital Shipmanagement, Chandris (Hellas) Inc., ClassNK, Costamare Inc., CR Ocean Engineering, Dorian LPG, DNV GL, ERMA FIRST, Green Jakobsen, JOTUN, Latsco Marine Management Inc., MarineTraffic, Metropolitan College, MINERVA Marine, Neptune Lines Shipping, North P&I Club, Orpheus Marine Transport Corporation, RINA, RISK4SEA, SHIP MED CARE, Standard Club, Steamship Mutual P&I Club, The Swedish Club, Synergy Group, Tsakos Group of Companies, UK Club, WALLEM, World Link Communications. Supporters of the event were: AMMITEC, Chios Marine Club, Green Award Foundation, Hellenic Engineers Society of Great Britain, PEPEN, WISTA Hellas.

Panel 1 – Sustainable Shipping in the COVID-19 era

If this crisis has taught us one thing, it that we need to redefine sustainability. This is an unprecedented crisis situation in terms of breadth and scale, from a global health, social and economic standpoint. The COVID-19 pandemic has knocked on our door. The next day will not be the same; we fell asleep in one world but we need to wake up in a more sustainable industry. Experts of Panel 1 focused on how the pandemic has impacted maritime industry

Mrs. Elpi Petraki, WISTA Hellas, President, pinpointed a key lesson learned from the pandemic; that even we did not succeed, we managed to do our business. Industry proved that is fast adapting to new situations. Also, we learned that we can trust each other. With regards to crew change, she noted that we need to continue spreading the message across so as to make all people and industries aware of the situation and raise more collaborations that will assist in resolving this issue.

Mr. Sunil Kapoor, Fleet Management, Director of Fleet Cyprus, noted that shipping is flexible as an industry; definitely, how we are going to continue the next months is a big challenge. The pandemic gave us an opportunity to realize that ships cannot run without crew. Thus, we now need to focus on crew and their family and address all issues associated with their wellbeing, psychology and mental health. These are key priorities; industry should not wait for a vaccine to solve current problems.

Mr. Theo Xenakoudis, IRI, Director of Worldwide Business Operations, highlighted lessons learned so far due to the pandemic. First of all, we realized that we do not need to stop our operations as we can do things remotely, he noted. Also, we learned that we have huge technological support; the future is digital and we cannot ignore that, especially for the new generation. Most imporantly though, we learned that we should work to change the public perception about shipping. We have to promote better what we are doing and not accept negative perception from other industries. Seafarers should be designated as key workers and this message to be spread across all industries, he concluded.

Capt. Kuba Szymanski, InterManager, Secretary General, briefly presented key actions of the association. InterManager was one of the very first NGOs that participated in an industry-wide COVID-19 group, where all major players met for the first time at the so called Corona Strategy Group weekly meeting starting in March. From the outset, there was strong cooperation from all parties involved, and the results of this cooperation were very tangible/. What is more, almost immediately, InterManager set up its Maritime Champions Club to recognise the hard work of its members who thrived in the face of pandemic adversity, finding and sharing solutions to crew change restrictions.

Mr. George A. Tsavliris, Tsavliris Salvage, doubted whether the shipping industry has seriously considered the crisis. Without shipping half of the world would have died from starvation – so shipping is crucial, that’s why it was a number one priority. However it needs a more passionate approach from all people involved, he highlighted. Concluding, he encouraged maritime stakeholders to be more compassionate, keeping in mind we are human beings in a digital world. The next generation should be a priority in order not to loose the big picture. We need to focus therefore on how to educate them and get them involved in the industry.

Panel 2 – Crew Welfare

Seafarers’ mental health was at the center even before COVID-19; inevitably, the pandemic has become an extra challenge since bans forced by governments have left thousands of seafarers quarantined onboard ships, unable to return home, even after their contract had ended. IMO theme on Day of Seafarers outlined ‘#SeafarersAreKeyWorkers’ . But above all, Seafarers are our family. Experts of Panel 2 encouraged to join forces and consider more drastic measures.

Capt. Costas Karavassilis, UK P&I Club, Senior Loss Prevention Executive, noted that the pandemic brought crew welfare into the spotlight. It is now time to identify and address seafarer’s key issues; in order to take the industry to the next level, it is vital to try to find solutions for the crew onboard to become happier and more productive. Also, shore leave is another topic for consideration since it is impossible in many jurisdictions due to COVID-19 restrictions as well as seafarers’ suicides which is an alarming issue for life onboard.

Mr. Ross Millar, Steamship Mutual, Loss Prevention Associate, noted that seafarers have succeeded in operating in difficult times and we should continue to support them. However, more needs to be done, for example it is important to educate people to break any stigma and raise awareness across the feeling of isolation onboard. Crew changes and repatriation are currently the key issues. Although major ship owners have taken action, small companies are struggling. However, there is not only one solution but a range of packages that can assist not only seafarers stranded at sea but also those who have remained at home and face financial difficulties.

Mr. Johan Smith, Sailors Society Wellness Sea, Programme Manager, also mentioned that the pandemic has highlighted the issue of wellbeing. Our approach should acknowledge the family connections, how to maintain positive relations with those on onboard, he noted; this is why, Sailors Society has set up helplines to support families and seafarers at home as well. Technology has given a new direction to the industry, he concluded and encouraged industry to hold open discussions on mental health and wellbeing and recognize seafarers as key workers.

Dr. Athena Stoupis, ShipMedCare Med. Advisor, Dir. of Infectious Disease, Athens Medical Center, referred to few key concepts that are included in guidelines issued for the prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 disease on ships. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ship companies must develop and implement a detailed scheme that includes preventive measures, diagnostic detection methods, management of sick or exposed persons on board, adherence of cleaning and disinfection protocols and they must be aware and respond to local jurisdictional requirements. In this context, several organizations such as the CDC, ECDC, WHO, IMO, ISC and other international organizations have provided guidelines for the management of COVID-19 on ships.

Capt. Yves Vandenborn, Standard Club, Director of Loss Prevention also noted that seafarers bear the brunt of social stigma and discrimination when society should be doing its utmost to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Those sailing are facing prolonged contracts on board, mental stress from sailing to various ports where there is a high risk of contracting the virus, isolation on board etc. The global travel restrictions and lack of commercial flights have impacted crew changes and totally stopped shore leave. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that shipping owners/managers, welfare organisations and industry groups come together to ensure our seafarers stay safe, healthy and can reach home soon.

Panel 3 – Future Skills

Soft skills have started to earn space, while are expected to define the future of work. As shipping companies are rapidly changing, to attract young talent and be in line with the modern-day environment, there is an urgent need for soft skills’ development. In order to add value to its business, shipping should adopt new training methods and techniques on how to improve those abilities. Experts of Panel 3 discussed about the future skills and training for the next generation of shipping

Mr. Adam Lewis, IMEC, Head of Training & Operations, stated that with regards to future skills, we now witness a major disruption – the young people who will come with different mindset and expectations – and at the same time, a major opportunity – technology. In essence, the pandemic acted as a catalyst. We are ready for a change, he noted but there are still a lot of things to be considered for training. There is a new whole style in teaching where we need to adapt quickly.

Dr. William Moore, American Club, Global Loss Prevention Director – S.V.P., mentioned that the ongoing challenges to make ships cleaner, safer, and more efficient to meet the needs of both customers and society are ever present. Meanwhile, today a career at sea is no longer considered a lifelong occupation creating a gap in knowledge and experience. This is an interesting and challenging dichotomy. New skills will not simply supersede existing skills but build on those currently in use. Our industry will require striking a balance between “hard” and “soft” skills to meet our future challenges, he concluded.

Capt. Jeff Parfitt, CHIRP Maritime, Director, welcomed the opportunity to engage with the wider maritime audience to give its own perspective and viewpoint. One of the biggest challenges is how to engage with potential recruits and shipping organisations to ensure that a career at sea is worthwhile, rewarding and safe. The future of the maritime industry is uncertain and with the unexpected effects of the coronavirus pandemic coupled with the rapid advance of autonomous shipping, there are challenges ahead as yet unidentified. Without doubt, soft skills will play an ever increasing role.

Capt. David Patraiko, The Nautical Institute, Director of Projects, focused on the importance of the human element for the maritime industry. One aspect that he highlighted was that we naturally expect people from sea to come ashore and be qualified to hold shore positions. However, the shore side management of the ships lack qualification on that. What is more, it seems that may people take shipping for granted. Therefore, we need to raise industry’s profile to get respect for seafarers and change perception. Above all, in order to focus on human element, we need to change mindset and acknowledge the many opportunities that new technology now offers.

Dr. Maria Progoulaki, Green Jakobsen A/S, Regional Representative, pinpointed that self-reflection, insight & understanding of presence as well as dialogue and communication should be the new areas of focus when it comes to crew training. Anything that stimulates dialogue and reflection is vital to provide a clear picture of life onboard. Living in a -more than ever- digital era, she highlighted the value of personal communication; even the small talks matter! This has not been quantified yet, but makes a great difference, she said. The mode may has been changed to a more digital environment, but we have to consider many associated issues to move forward.

RAmd. Bill Truelove, Managing Director, CSMART Academy, stated that the shipping industry must continue to evolve and become more inclusive and reflective of the global community it serves. It must get beyond the question of whether there is a place for women to lead/operate in the industry. They are already doing this and often at a much higher standard than their male colleagues. The industry must also embrace new technologies, respect and care for the seafarer and her/his family and provide a safe/secure work environment where sailors are encouraged and incentivized to pursue lifelong professional development. The future seafarer will operate in an ever more technologically complex environment and a work place where interpersonal/soft skills will be critical to success, he concluded.

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October 2020