As the curtain draws down on each year, it has been a tradition for many to take a moment to look back at the year that was; and indeed what a year 2013 has been for the maritime industry. Perhaps the most important event over the past 12 months was the coming into force, on August 20, of the 2006 Maritime Labor Convention.
THE MARITIME LABOR CONVENTION
Considered the “magna carta” of seafaring, this magnum opus was a result of 13 years of considered effort among the tripartite partners which resulted in establishing the 4th pillar of an international regulatory regime for this industry. The MLC sets the stage for minimum standards for work and decent living conditions for seafarers on board all ships. It also serves as an essential step toward ensuring a level-playing field among labor supplying countries and shipowners, securing their interests through fair competition.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the MLC as it came into force. Anxious moments prevailed in the weeks and days leading to the 20th of August, particularly focused on basic definitions such as what defines a shipowner, and even a seafarer. Given its significant impact across a broad measure of labor provisions requiring the clear delineation of responsibilities among shipowners, shipmanagers and crew managers, it was no wonder that despite the long run-up to this “DDay”, much uncertainty remained, and still remains as to the consistency of interpretation of the convention’s provisions by the implementing arms of Port State, Flag State and their respective Representative Organizations.
Interestingly enough, within the first weeks of implementation at least eight detentions were recorded. Will this ultimately assure all of the so-called level playing field, and will this convention usher in a new era in seafarer’s overall productivity, as well as, attract future quality prospects into this important profession?
Time will tell and serve as final judge of the convention’s ultimate success. But if it is any clear indication of where this is all headed, today there are now 50 countries that have ratified the convention representing over 80% of the total tonnage of the world’s merchant fleet – proof of how widespread and committed the key players in this industry are in implementing this seafarer’s “bill of rights”.
For InterManager, the coming into force of the MLC was both a welcome development and an important step towards enhancing working environments for our global maritime professionals, ensuring the continuity of important sea-service, and effectively encouraging the long term retention of competent skills on board. After all, the heart and soul of shipping is our human talent.
THE SHIPPING KPIs
A milestone for InterManager this past year, was breaking the ceiling in terms of number of vessels involved in the shipping KPIs database. As of the end of 2013, the KPI database reached a total enrolled population of 2,265 ships and covering 47,566 seafarers. This sets a very keen trajectory for the database and sends a signal to industry that the information being generated by the members using this database is not only significant, but will also allow members who actively participate in using the metric tool, a chance to benchmark best practices in aid of their own game changing efforts to drive safer navigation and sustainable shipping across the board.
A strategic decision taken by InterManager was to open up industry participation to all institutions interested in cultivating best practices in shipping. This move is an area that the KPI Association, organized by InterManager in 2011 will be following up on in the new year, encouraging an even deeper effort on the part of current and prospective members and supporters to take on the serious mantle that the KPI database will provide.
SHIPMANAGEMENT – WHERE TO IN THE COMING YEAR
“These dynamic shifts in the industry reinforce the view that we live in interesting and challenging times.
As we have seen, even when we think we see the light of day, there remains a specter of uncertainty over the industry. In general though, we have managed through the most difficult parts of the crisis dating back to 2008, creating new normals for all sectors and trades – from slow steaming to “battened down” operating budgets, while continuing to keep an eye out for future trends in global economic cycles. It has not been easy, but the industry has shown great resilience all throughout.
The recent run up in VLCC rates seemed like the beginning of an upturn. However, a similar surge in new building orders for tankers is something that we should keep an eye on because of its potential impact on the cyclical nature of our business. The often hard to read and unanticipated moves in the industry, reinforce the view that we live in interesting and challenging times.
In all this, one thing is clear, come what may, shipping moves the world and it is a fact that we can all take pride in. The recent conference at the IMO on The Future of Safe Shipping, held last June, for the first time brought under one roof, owners, managers, seafarers, the academe, class societies, flag states and port state control for the single purpose of uniting towards common objectives. No doubt this was an important event that continues to reverberate.
Driving efficiency at the helm must remain the main focus of shipmanagement in order for this industry to sustain itself. Not to be outdone, is an equal and constant attention on our global maritime professionals to ensure their competency, their health and wellbeing, and their willingness to continue to serve on board. By all definitions ship and crew managers are at the very core maritime human resource development specialists and those that take this responsibility to heart will ultimately emerge to best serve our industry and the world’s economies. And InterManager and its members operate right in the sweet spot of this official association position, using a myriad of tools with the passion to serve with distinction.
A BIG THANK YOU
Year-end activities are always a perfect time to come around and thank the many individuals, groups and organizations that helped make the year a good year, relatively speaking.
Most important in this aspect is a big THANK YOU coming from the Philippines, the Filipino population, and most particularly our maritime professionals to the world, to thank all individuals, associations and organizations for the tremendous outpouring of support that has been shown and continuous to be shown each day. Without a doubt Typhoon Haiyan, changed the world for a significant swath of Central Philippines. Today, the casualty count continues and is now over 6,000 with close to 2,000 still missing and unaccounted for.
I spoke of a resilient shipping industry in spite of the tough times we have been through. The situation in the Philippines is no different, and what will carry this country and its people through to another year is the spirit of community, especially in adversity which has made all the difference. As an important industry stakeholder and seafaring capital of the world, the Philippines can reassure the world that its global maritime professionals remain ready to deploy on schedule and will continue to serve in the best traditions of the Philippines and the Filipino people.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Capt. Kuba Szymanski, our indefatigable Secretary General, for another yeoman’s job in steering InterManager through this part year. The same kudos goes to Capt. Paddy McKnight, our IMO representative who has supplied very complete and detailed summaries and observations resulting from our presence at critical IMO meetings on various important shipping related concerns. To Debbie Munford and Elaborate Communications for their media support of all InterManager activities. And then there is Dorota Busko, the able right hand of our Secretary General, who takes charge of many administrative things which have allowed Capt. Szymanski to succeed in tackling his agenda over the past year.
Most importantly, I would like to thank each InterManager member for keeping the faith and keeping your interest in the association. We are now 105 members strong and growing. In fact, for the fourth year running, we are again up 10% from the previous year in terms of total members.
Wishing each of you and your families all the best this Holiday Season and for the New Year. And to our maritime professionals who will be on duty over the next two weeks as we welcome the New Year, safe sailing and our deepest appreciation and admiration for helping to move the world through your service on board.