New Shipping Industry Blog Group Aims at Higher Safety and Environmental Standards Across the Board

New Shipping Industry Blog Group Aims at Higher Safety and Environmental Standards Across the Board

A new "ginger group" of well-known maritime figures has announced a blog advocating more active involvement in the crusade for safer ships and cleaner seas, bridging the communication gap between conservation and environmental groups, industry decision-makers, and governments. At a press conference in London on 1 December 2009, Clay Maitland, a noted maritime executive and commentator, warned that ship quality standards are at risk due to financial cost-cutting during the present recession.

At the meeting, Mr Maitland announced the start-up of a new website: focussing on stimulating a dialogue on the environmental standards generally described as "quality issues."

Mr Maitland remarked that while he and his colleagues were veteran regulators and commentators, it was clear that the website would be a useful forum for an independent viewpoint, emphasising the "holes in the fence" that should be fixed, if critical shortcomings in developing a more effective regulatory framework were to be achieved. Mr. Maitland has been employed in the administration of flag state safety and environmental programmes for 33 years, and has been a lawyer for more than four decades. He is presently a Managing Partner of International Registries, Inc., and will participate in the blog solely as an independent spokesperson for the industry.

He is also the founding chairman of the North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA), which currently has some 80 corporate members. A major purpose of NAMEPA is to involve young people and environmental groups with the maritime industry, to promote the protection of the oceanic and fresh-water resources around and within the North American continent. One of its recent successful projects was the co-management of the World Maritime Day events held in New York, with the participation of the United States Coast Guard and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), as well as representatives of some twenty-one other governments.

Mr Maitland announced he was being advised and supported in his endeavours by some of the shipping industry's leading figures:

DR HANS PAYER, he said, was a former Member of Germanischer Lloyd's Executive Board and CEO of GL Maritime Services, and a former Chairman of IACS. A naval architect, he has been much involved in the technical development of containerships. He has presented more than 100 papers in the fields of ship structures, hydrodynamics and vibrations, and on ship safety, the human factor, accident investigations and security. While on the GL Executive Board, Mr Maitland said, 'Hans Payer played a leading role in generating policies to improve ship safety globally. He was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of his contribution to improved ship safety.'

MICHAEL GREY, Mr Maitland said, has a formidable knowledge of the maritime industry. He speaks at and chairs innumerable conferences and panels in the UK and overseas. He is a former Editor of Lloyds List and of Fairplay; and is a prolific columnist and broadcaster on maritime affairs, and writes maritime books. He has a particular expertise in human element issues and marine safety and ship operational matters. A former mariner, he held a British foreign-going Master's ticket.

NEVILLE SMITH, Mr Maitland said, was previously Deputy Editor of Lloyds List, and worked on Lloyds Shipping Economist and International Bulk Journal. He is an editorial consultant and freelance writer on matters including ship finance and environmental issues. He chairs and speaks at many international maritime and business conferences.

'What is lacking in our industry is a sense that the improvement of quality afloat and ashore is in our common interest,' Clay Maitland told the conference. 'We are all stakeholders nowadays. We are all in this together.' He suggested charterers, shippers and cargo underwriters should do more. He stressed that P&I Clubs, class societies, flag states, the IMO, the European Union and OECD were 'all interested in controlling risk, liability exposure, political censure and loss.' He said there was still a 'significant market for bottom feeders and sub-standard ships.'

He added that port state control authorities should be encouraged to reward administrations and class societies that achieve high quality standards. 'We must also establish an effective mandatory system for the audit of flag state administrations. And we must enforce a rigorous system of oversight for recognised organisations acting for administrations. We must also institute effective application of the 1995 STCW Convention. 'There is no room for bogus seafarer qualifications.'

Mr Maitland told the conference: 'Unless the shipping industry works collectively to foster safer ships, public opinion will turn against the industry and governments will impose more regulation on it.' He warned, 'We are only one oil spill from being on the minds and web pages of millions. The vast increase in digital communication has battered down the walls that once insulated shipping from public response, criticism and accountability.'

He said a top priority of both the group and the website are the crews of the ships. 'They are often the forgotten people upon whom the whole global supply chain depends, including the many industries that rely on just-in-time deliveries.'

Both Dr Payer and Michael Grey stressed the need for better training of officers and crews. They expressed disappointment at the trend by shipowners to reduce costs by cutting back on crew complements, and the training of young people. 'We are eating the seed corn of our own future,' Grey said.

Dr Payer told the conference that once again an over-supply of tonnage was having negative effects on the safety of ship operations. He said usually world trade and shipping recover strongly as the global economy picks up. 'But it is doubtful if that will happen this time because global production and services have been severely damaged by the recession.' He said he supported the Maitland initiative 'because society will not tolerate a decline in ship safety and environmental protection.'

In conclusion, Clay Maitland told the journalists: 'Hans, Michael, Neville and I look forward to talking to you regularly both directly and through the blog. Our link with you is a vital element in building the bridges to communicate with the wider shipping community and the public.'