By placing it at the top of their list of priorities, shipowners can ensure that safety becomes not just a way of working, but a way of life, says John Roger Nesje, CEO of Norwegian wireless technology pioneer ScanReach. “Shipping must commit to safety in order to create a positive environment where employees don’t just survive, but thrive,” he maintains.
Good health and safety practices are paramount in protecting employees, but they also contribute to a constructive and productive workplace, Nesje points out. “This is just another reason why the number one priority in a company should be to make sure that the working environment is as safe as possible.”
Breathing life into legislation
The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) ensures the minimum standards of safety to which all ships flying the flag of a contracted state must adhere. It requires those responsible for a ship to comply with the International Safety Management Code (ISM), with individual ships being issued a Safety Management Certificate that must be renewed every 5 years. The Maritime Labour Convention also sets minimum requirements for working and living conditions for seafarers, including occupational safety.
Despite the good intentions behind these regulations, the global shipping industry still struggles with safety issues. Poor implementation and breaches of SOLAS and ISM are continually cited in vessel detentions by port-state authorities around the world, and the 2019 annual report of the Paris MoU clearly indicates ISM as the main detainable deficiency area.
When such breaches persist, it becomes necessary to address not just the safety, but the sanctity of life at sea, says Nesje: “Each and every life must be kept as safe as possible, and we cannot say we are doing this until we have done everything within our reach to protect crewmembers in as many situations as possible on board.”
Simply staying safe
Enabling real-time recognition of shipboard personnel, fall detection, Man Overboard (MOB) capabilities, and gangway control, the ScanReach In:Mesh system is the world’s certified first plug-and-play wireless IoT platform for the global maritime fleet.
Supported by In:Mesh, In:Range is the ScanReach application comprising a system of fixed and wearable sensors, central processing units and visual interfaces that allows shipowners and operators to know where crew are on a vessel at all times.
During an emergency, their location on board and their condition are immediately evident, and any absences at muster stations can be quickly and effectively noted and addressed. Crewmembers can also notify a central operator in the event of accident or disablement.
The system automatically issues alarms in the event of man overboard, and includes a mobile module for searches in open water. Wireless sensors can also be used to monitor holds and rooms for gasses, heat, smoke, and air quality, providing further protection to crew in every room of the ship.
“Seeing” through steel
The secret to onboard traceability is a ScanReach technology for transmitting sensor-based data in a steel environment. The technology, based on a combination of frequency control, sophisticated algorithms and protocols, wirelessly transmits real-time data from distributed sensors to the bridge or control room.
Using Bluetooth, the sensors communicate through nodes in the ScanReach wireless onboard network. Any changes to monitored individuals, spaces or components are immediately picked up by the closest microsensor and relayed automatically in the system.
Data can also be transferred to land in order to enhance rescue efforts or training at the fleet level. Information can be shared with remote locations including fleet management offices, emergency services, insurers and performance monitoring specialists.
Putting safety first pays off
Studies in various industries have shown that companies prioritising a strong safety culture typically attain higher levels of productivity. Employees are more likely to practice better decision-making and more effective communication, leading to fewer loss events and lower personnel turnover.
Beyond the risk of death or serious injuries to workers, failing to address safety issues can cause significant damage to a company’s reputation, making it difficult to compete for contracts, Nesje argues. Lack of sufficient safety can also undermine worker loyalty and confidence.
“Not least to ensure the crew’s mental well-being, a safe ship is a smart investment,” Nesje says. “It makes sense that crews who are confident in the measures put in place to ensure their safety are more likely to be content, and happy crewmembers have more reason to contribute positively to the performance of a ship,” he maintains. “I think morale matters more than people would like to admit.”
We are family
“When you are on board a ship, you literally have to trust your fellow crewmembers with your life,” Nesje observes. “They become your fire department, your ambulance and your hospital, your doctors and nurses.” Not least, he says, they become family and friends. “You can’t just turn your back. You have to be there when they need you, and in order to do that, you need to know where they are.”
In addition, he notes, crews are drawn to organisations where their safety is a priority. “When a shipowner is known for putting their money where their mouth is to ensure crew safety, word gets around. People want to be sure they can return safely to their families, and the safest ships will always be the most attractive in the recruiting process.”
Fortunately for both owners and crews, the threshold for providing the highest level of crew safety is now unprecedentedly low. “We can offer simple, affordable safety solutions to any ship sailing today,” John Roger Nesje assures. When a secure and satisfied crew is the result, it’s safe to say that the return on that investment is priceless.