With piracy, criminalisation of seafarers, the water ballast treatment convention and satellite communications all at the top of the agenda, ship management companies are facing challenging times.
Thankfully they have an experienced and knowledgeable resource on which they can draw – InterManager.
InterManager is the international trade association for the ship management industry. Its members are in-house or third party ship managers, crew managers or related organisations or businesses from throughout the shipping industry. Collectively InterManager members are involved in the management of more than 4370 ships and responsible for some 250,000 seafarers.
InterManager is the only organisation exclusively dedicated to representing the ship management industry. It is a recognised and well-respected organisation, which represents its members at international level, lobbying on their behalf to ensure their views and needs are taken into account within the worldwide maritime industry.
In addition, InterManager is committed to improving transparency and governance in the shipping world and ensuring high standards are maintained throughout the ship management sector.
InterManager was founded originally under the name ISMA – International Ship Management Association. Capt. Kuba Szymanski, secretary general of InterManager, continued the story with more details: “The idea behind ISMA at its foundation in 1991 was to improve standards in ship management and achieve a safer, more environmentally conscious, more reliable and more controllable ship management industry. This continues to be the aim of the Association.
“The ISMA Code of Ship Management Standards, the foundation stone of the Association, reflected the highest standards of ship management practice. It was drafted by practical ship managers, and based on the experience gained through their involvement in day-to-day ship management.
“The example of the ISMA Code triggered a continuing quality movement of as yet unknown proportions, with classification societies introducing their own codes, ship-owners adapting codes designed for the production industry, and IMO adopting the ISMA Code for mandatory implementation by flag states as Chapter IX of the SOLAS Convention.”
The ISMA Code of Ship management Standards was unanimously accepted by all founder members and the Code is now generally recognised as the most comprehensive quality code for shipping in the world. To spread the quality ideal, in 1994 membership was extended to crew managers.
Kuba explained in more detail how membership works: “We are an association of pro-active members who want to make difference. Therefore members declare their interest in the specific area and team up in committees that then produce the results of their work to the whole organisation. This approves / changes / discusses the outcome and finally publishes to the ‘whole world’ as a best practice.”The ship management market
Maintaining close contact with members means that InterManager is always up-to-date with the current state of the market. Kuba gave more details on the areas that members are discussing: “Ship managers have been very well seasoned over the last 20-25 years and therefore today's crisis is not making much difference for some of them. However, one noteworthy point is that management fees have not seen an increase for more than 15 years - not even for inflation.
“Another interesting trend is also quite clearly visible - ship managers are declining to work for owners who refuse to pay for the proper upkeep of their vessels. There is now a huge responsibility for Document of Compliance holders (DOC) to maintain safe vessels and their crews.”
He continued: “Going forward, I believe that compliance with all these regulations with limited funds from owners is going to be a challenge. Nevertheless, there really is a need for good quality service to be properly rewarded.”
Training remains a major focus as well, as Kuba highlighted: “In fact, training has always been at the top of ship managers’ agendas, for both shore and sea staff. The reason for this is simple - well educated and professional staff are easier to employ by owners. Ship managers always try to maintain the flexibility of their staff, allowing for new employment but also in today's, very regulated shipping industry, properly qualified employees are a ‘must’ for anyone who wants to do business at required standard.
“I believe that ship managers will continue to get more sophisticated and hopefully will be rewarded for their hard work as a result of performance-based contracts. We are firmly behind the philosophy of good pay for good work.”
It is clear that the main focus of InterManager is to maintain and endorse a very high quality standard within ship management. One example of this is the Shipping KPI project, which was started in 2004 by InterManager and Marintek with support from NRC.
The Shipping KPI standard proposes a global shipping industry standard for defining, measuring and reporting information on operational performance in order to boost performance improvements internally in companies engaged in the ship operation activities; and provide an efficient communication platform of ship operation performance to internal and external stakeholders.
In collaboration with more than 20 shipping related companies and interested organisations a tool comprising Shipping Performance Indexes (SPI), Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Performance Indicators (PI) has been developed.
Kuba noted that several significant milestones have been reached already, including disclosing shipping definitions to the general public and making a web based data collection and benchmarking tool available free of charge to all DOC holders. “Today we have 860 vessels in the database, and by next year we aim to get that up to 2000 vessels,” he said. “This is a voluntary industry initiative that aims to meet future transparency requirements and provide consistent external performance communication. It will also help to benchmark the fleet and the industry and show us where improvements can be made.”The future
A look at InterManager’s website (www.intermanager.org
) shows what a comprehensive resource it is to members, and highlights the issues that today members are most concerned about. Although piracy features strongly, Kuba pointed out that a new piece of legislation is also under scrutiny: “The Water Ballast Treatment Convention is something our members need to deal with. Its lack of clear testing guidelines make it very challenging and it also appears to have absolutely incompatible goals with other IMO resolutions such as 2020 (20 per cent reduction of emission by 2020). Reducing emissions will not be achieved by introducing ‘power hungry’ ballast treatment plants on board of 70,000 vessels worldwide!”
Kuba concluded with some thoughts on how the industry could improve going forward: “There are some issues around ship management that need work. For example, there is a need for deeper co-operation between ports and shipping, as there is huge potential to be had - providing both ‘worlds’ talk and try to understand each other better.
“I also want to improve the entire image of the ships’ crew within the maritime arena. Ship's crew are the last to be served and frequently absolutely denied shore leave, and this situation is ridiculous when compared to aircrew. The airline industry fully understands that an airport would not exist without aircrew and pilots. This manifests itself by creating special priority check out for those who have just brought a plane to the airport. I very much look forward to seeing this type of attitude arrive in ship management.”
For more information, visit www.intermanager.org