There is far too little investment or commitment to training to meet imminent regulations, warns Chris McMenemy*
Training has, for a long time, been considered persona non grata in the field of ballast water management (BWM). While some people have argued that it will be an important part of the entire BWM compliance process, there has been little in the way of dedicated investment and development – with many considering training as a problem for the future. But with hundreds of ballast water management systems (BWMSs) already installed and (partially) operational, the need for suitable industry training is already here – and the lack of suitable solutions is already apparent.
Shipping is about to enter one of its most significant periods of investment in history, and BWM is not the only show in town. With the IMO 2020 sulphur cap coming into force alongside EU Ship Recycling requirements, the industry is collectively being driven towards spending billions of dollars in achieving compliance.
While this bill is, to say the least, unpalatable, the amount of money that will shortly be spent is not the only worry. Another is the fact that the compliance solutions currently available make achieving compliance almost impossible.
That may be a polarising statement, but it is true. The 2017 study undertaken by classification society ABS found that 43% of installed BWMSs were either inoperable or problematic. Of course, that study cited numerous reasons for this startling statistic – including installation and operational issues, and a lack of after-sales support (a common complaint that we hear around the world).
Comprehensive compliance solutions would avoid many of these issues. Impartial and honest advice upfront would avoid badly chosen systems being installed, while thorough engineering analysis could avoid operational issues once installed. Critical analysis during the feasibility study could and should consider the lack of after-sales support from a manufacturer within any recommendations made.
But the biggest takeaway from the study, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the lack of crew familiarity and training: “Crew members are constantly on rotation not only on and off the ship but on and off different ships with a variety of ballast water systems. This variety can lead to confusion on operational procedures and maintenance schedules,” the ABS study noted.
After all, without sufficient training, crew members are being thrust onto the front lines of environmental compliance without so much as a ‘cheat sheet’ to go to battle with. Shore-based staff are no different when they are faced with making significant investment and operational decisions. Without training, achieving compliance is as good as impossible.
This problem can only grow as the industry progresses through the compliance process over the next six years, with about 30,000 BWMSs to be installed. Even if we assumed each vessel had just 10 crew members requiring immediate training – that’s 300,000 crew. Multiply this over the lifetime of these vessels and the numbers are in the millions!
With the solutions out there today, achieving mass compliance is simply not going to happen. There just has not been enough emphasis on the issue of training, despite it being a fundamental part of successfully achieving compliance.
The industry must focus on the practical compliance issues that matter now, such as training, not on grandstanding and debating legislative semantics. Owners, operators, crew and staff will all be faced with the reality of achieving compliance – and to help them get there, they require action.
The industry needs comprehensive, practical training that is readily available worldwide. Of course, a small number of training packages are available. But large training houses simply turning the handle on their rather impersonal, and often impractical, business models will not help solve the issue of global compliance.
We live in a world where access to incredible technology and information is at our fingertips, yet shipping is still heavily reliant on training modules locked to a single PC on board. We expect our frontline crew members to become educated in legislative requirements only when they have time to do so on board. That is not going to cut it in achieving compliance.
Crew members want instant access to comprehensive training courses before they join a vessel. And they want courses available not just on a PC, but also on their phones and tablets. They want the chance to join a vessel with a certificate, not with a gaping hole in compliance knowledge.
Shore-based staff are no different. They want the chance to become as proficient as possible on compliance subjects, and not be curtailed by licensing issues or node-locked PCs.
I make no apology for saying that we have addressed this at Cleanship Solutions. We have launched a training platform dedicated to providing a range of comprehensive environmental compliance themed e-learning courses available at any time from a portable device. Our introductory courses are not only CPD-certified by IMarEST, but also 100% free to enrol and gain certification.
Until such time as the industry drops the charades and instead focuses on ensuring owners and operators have practical solutions to achieving compliance, the clear warnings may continue to fall on deaf ears.
*Chris McMenemy is managing director of Cleanship Solutions