The Port of Vancouver is the third largest container port in North America and the 47th largest in the world. It handles around $100 billion-worth of container cargo each year, and, in 2017, it accounted for 42% of the cargo handled by all Canadian ports. Vancouver is a crucial hub of Canadian trade, and container traffic to the West Coast is growing fast.
The importance of the marine shipping trade is not lost on Canadians. Findings of a recent study conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping show that 55% of Canadian respondents believe the marine shipping trade has grown in importance over the past two decades. This is largely because of the industry’s importance to the Canadian economy, access to imported goods and access to export markets.
Public opinion of the maritime industry is relatively high, according to the study. Approximately 75% of Canadians said they are confident in the rules and regulations governing marine shipping safety in Canada today. However, almost half of the respondents said they felt their provincial and federal governments pay too little attention to shipping safety, oversight and enforcement. This is important because there’s lots of competition within the maritime industry to get the right crews with the appropriate skills to run modern ships. If Canadians aren’t convinced by the safety onboard the ships, they could start turning their back on the industry.
“The [maritime] industry is safer now than it has been for quite a long time. We’ve had the International Safety Management (ISM) code in place for the last 20 years, and it has been running reasonably well. It has focused around putting mechanical systems and barriers in place to stop accidents happening, and it has had good results for the industry,” said Colin Gillespie, director, loss prevention, at leading marine liability insurer, The North of England P&I Association Limited (North).
“Now the industry’s moving towards safety management 2.0. It’s a move away from the mechanistic systems approach to safety towards a more human-centred approach that focuses around the seafarers and the people within the industry. That shift is absolutely key moving forwards for a number of reasons.
“For a long time, the shipping industry has been invisible. If something went wrong at sea, you wouldn’t get the same publicity as you would around an airline or aircraft incident. But that’s changing from a number of aspects. Today, there’s more focus from the authorities around what goes on at sea and it’s becoming less acceptable to have incidents, particularly if pollution is involved. The industry doesn’t look good if it gets into the mainstream press and people say bad things about it. That creates a problem because you can’t recruit the right calibre of people into the industry. The industry realizes that it needs to improve safety, and how does it do that? Mechanistic systems have taken them so far, but the people who operate those systems have to take them the rest of the way – and that’s why safety management needs to be human-centred.”
There are a number of “commercial drivers” behind safety management 2.0, according to Gillespie. First off, in today’s connected, modern world, it’s no longer acceptable to have an incident where a ship is delayed, or even worse, where a ship doesn’t get to its destination, because that means the cargo doesn’t reach its destination. Such an incident means bad publicity and the potential for a heavy insurance claim.
Furthermore, as the industry modernizes and implements technological changes to improve operational and commercial efficiency, seafarers are going to need more support and training (also part of safety management 2.0) around how to use new equipment and how to interact with people and systems differently.
“Everybody within the shipping industry needs to be commercially reactive when it comes to safety management,” Gillespie added. “The technological changes going on in the industry now are unprecedented. There will be a lot of technology coming on to ships that’s driven by research, particularly into autonomous vessels, and all of this stuff will spill over into the manned industry.”
It’s vital that seafarers are educated and trained on how to use these new complex systems if marine shipping firms want to avoid costly claims.