Operational Excellence through Leadership and Compliance

Maritime Compliance Report

Welcome. Staying in compliance takes dedication, diligence and strong leadership skills to stay on top of all the requirements which seem to keep coming at a rapid pace. With this blog I hope to provide visitors with content that will help them in their daily work of staying in compliance. I hope you find it a resource worthy of your time and I look forward to your feedback, questions, comments and concerns. Thanks for stopping by. To avoid missing critical updates, don’t forget to sign up by clicking the white envelope in the blue toolbar below.

Declaration of Security

 The maritime security regulations call for the use of a Declaration of Security (DOS) during certain times and situations when there a heightened security threat. The International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code takes a more general approach to the DOS than do the very specific U.S. Coast Guard regulations on the topic, which spell out which types of interfaces require a DOS at which MARSEC levels.

However, the intent of the regulations is clear in both, which is for the two interfacing parties to get together and make a deal regarding who will take responsibility for what security measures during a particular interface. This contract, which is usually limited to a single page, is signed by both parties.

Unfortunately, as the years have passed since the publication of the Code and regulations, some of the intent and perceived value of such a document has been lost. It is not unusual to find that a DOS has been filled out and signed, but that the facility and the vessel personnel are unaware of its contents. It is also not unusual to find initials down both columns, including the vessel signing that it is taking responsibility for controlling access to the facility. Clearly, individuals responsible for fulfilling the obligations of the DOS should be aware of the contents.

According to the U.S. regulations, a DOS can be filled out and signed by a Facility or Vessel security Officer or their "designated representative." This should not necessarily be a third party tankerman or stevedore who has no control over the processes prescribed in either security plan. The designated representative should be properly trained as a "vessel and facility personnel with security duties." However, a designated representative does not have to be an alternate facility or vessel security officer who would be required to be trained to the level of an FSO or VSO under the regulations.

A Declaration of Security is a useful tool if used correctly. It continues to raise eyebrows each time we role-play filling one out during training sessions. Make good use of a DOS. The regulations have not gone away, and neither have the threats.
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When should a checklist be required?

Have you ever wondered why a watch relief checklist is common in the industry, but a bridge transit procedure checklist is not? I'm not sure the reason is given much thought. Consultants seem to think lots of forms make their manuals more professional, managers like the idea of having everything documented, and mariners feel they are the victims of a useless paperwork onslaught. A mariner, who was sick of all the foolish paperwork he was forced to do, once wrote about making a fake ISM form for how many sugar cubes were used by individuals at the ship's coffee mess. His point was proved when the crew did indeed; fill out the ISM sugar cube usage form.

Some in management feel making employees complete and turn in signed checklists is a good way of covering themselves. However, the value of that is questionable, and it may be counter-productive from a leadership stand point. After all, no one wants to have to complete a checklist just so their boss can cover his ass.

I recently read an excellent book on the topic of checklist usage. I highly recommend it to all individuals involved in the development of management systems and procedures. The book is The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right; by Atul Gawande. This book makes a compelling case for the use of the checklists, through case studies in the medical and aviation fields.

When inspections are done, the use of a checklist is a good quality control measure to make sure nothing is missed. An engineer once told me he stopped using the engineering inspection checklist because he could do it from memory. After I had him close his eyes and imagine going down to the engine room and listing all the items he checked, he only listed 14% of the items on the checklist.

Clearly doing a detailed inspection requires a job aid for quality control. It is the operational checklist which is more complicated to determine. The methodology that we use to determine when a checklist is required is based upon risk assessment. A checklist may be required when: the task is done infrequently and therefore the risk of skipping a step is likely; and/ or, the consequence for missing a step is serious.

Why do airline pilots, who take off and land constantly, complete a checklist? Think of the consequence for missing something. When it comes to these decisions, aviation has it easy. In the maritime industry it requires a little more thought to figure out which checklists are required, and which are not. But the paperwork requirements are a little less tough to swallow when the reasoning behind them can be explained logically. Conversely, if a good risk-based argument can't be made for a particular checklist, get rid of it.
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No Deficiencies?

Many vessel operators claim that Coast Guard inspections are notoriously inconsistent. They claim such things as, "One Coast Guard guy came and told me it had to be this way, and next year another one came and told me to do something else, and the next year a third guy came back and told me to do it the way we had it in the first place." This unfortunately is true altogether too often, especially when it comes to dealing with inexperienced inspectors or examiners.

I recently was asked to discuss Coast Guard inspection issues with a towboat owner, and every time I mentioned a requirement he didn't like he would interrupt me and say that I was incorrect because the petty officer who examined his towboat either said he didn't have to, or he hadn't mention it during the exam. At the same time this owner complained about how inconsistent the Coast Guard is. This paradox is also too often true. "I'll rely on the Coast Guard to tell me what to do and I'll believe them when it's to my advantage."

Here's why this is not a good compliance management strategy. The Coast Guard rarely checks everything. There are many reasons for this, but just understand when the Coast Guard leaves the vessel and you have no deficiencies, it does not mean you are in compliance. According to a Times Picayune article, Bill Ambrose, Transocean's director of special projects testified during the BP/Deepwater Horizon trial that the rig was in "really good shape," and that during the July 2009 inspection of the rig the Coast Guard found "no deficiencies." However, in an interview about the accident, Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca Smith characterized Coast Guard inspections as "often cursory." She stated that the Coast Guard did a, "pretty minimal job of inspecting that rig." According to the same Time Picayune article, an expert witness for the plaintiff's lawyers "singled out Transocean for failing to maintain the Deepwater Horizon, having an improperly trained crew, and a rig that was in poor shape."

Operators can rid themselves of the headaches associated with inconsistent inspectors and prepare themselves for litigation by insuring they know the regulations and that they manage their own compliance. 

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Anti-Piracy Procedures and the Ship Security Plan

Recently, a group of U.S. Marines were able to board and regain control of a German-owned ship, which had been taken over by pirates off the coast of Somalia. They were able to do so without firing a single shot. According to a CNN report, a military spokesman claimed the members of the ship's crew had locked themselves in a safe room, so the military felt it was a good time to board the ship.    

Many flag states and recognized security organizations world-wide require anti-piracy procedures to be contained in ship security plans required under the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) code. While this recent intervention was a great success, it complicates things for those responsible for coming up with anti-piracy procedures and ensuring their implementation through drills and training.  Is this the new "best practice?"

Unfortunately, there is no one solution to this complex problem. Opinions on what constitutes best practices to defend against attacks, and what to do once pirates are on board, vary greatly.  Some advocate dispersing the crew and disabling the ship. Conversely, one flag state indicates that the crew should stay together in a predetermined safe haven provided with supplies comparable to those in a lifeboat. Another international government organization suggests that mariners should offer no resistance and, if in a lock-down situation, should not resist entry. So what is the answer? 

Perhaps the answer is that they are all correct and best procedures depend upon the type of boarder the crew is engaging.  Currently, the best indicators of the type of boarders are: past history, the geographic location, and the type of ship being attacked. For example, a ship could be attacked by pirates in Southeast Asia who intend on killing the entire crew and stealing the ship.  A ship could be boarded near the Horn of Africa by hijacker-extortionists who may not intend to kill anyone, but will if provoked.  A ship could be boarded by West African pirates who intend to kidnap the crew for ransom. And, of course, any ship could be boarded anywhere by terrorists who intend to use the ship as, or to transport, a weapon of mass destruction. 

It is important for security plans to account for these differences.  For example, you might find petty thieves on board who can be easily deterred and will jump over the side when detected.  Surely, the crew would not lock down in a safe haven while some hungry, unarmed teenage boys raided the galley. Of course, that probably would not happen, but the point is that an approved security plan may call for such actions if it is not scenario specific, or if it does not provide enough leeway for the master and crew. Accordingly, locking the entire crew in a safe room when no one is coming to the rescue, may not end well either.

The ship security plan must be useful to the crew.  It should be specific enough to give guidance regarding what the owner/operator and approving authority have determined to be appropriate, without hindering the master who will inevitably arrive on board the ship with his own ideas of what is appropriate and what is not. 

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Optimizing your Facility Security Plan (FSP)

Port security funds are supposed to be allocated to projects that will have the greatest impact. So, why would scarce taxpayer dollars be spent on fences and cameras to protect non-threatening areas such as settling ponds far away from the nearest waterway? The answer, most likely, is human error. The International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code requires port facilities around the globe to comply with the maritime security requirements of the Code. For U.S. port facilities, the U.S. Coast Guard regulations derived from Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 provided a definition of the term "facility." However, many years later, there are still conflicting opinions regarding what portions of a facility must be included under the maritime security regulations. The definition of a facility, beyond the description of the waterfront portion, calls for "any contiguous or adjoining property" to be included. Despite this definition, some facilities simply fenced off their docks, called that their facility, and got away with it. Other similar facilities were required to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fencing and other access control issues for their entire property.To clarify "contiguous property," the Coast Guard published guidance which states that in a case where a public street (such as a river road) splits a facility property, the maritime security regulations may only apply to the water side of the road. The example used in the policy guidance is an oil or hazardous material transfer facility with a pipeline crossing over the road. Despite this guidance, there are many facilities where the regulations have been applied to both sides of the road. In addition to costing facilities a great deal of money having to implement a set of regulations where they shouldn't apply, port security grant money is allocated in some cases to secure areas that are no threat at all of a transportation security incident (TSI). It's important to get a facility's footprint correct, not only to save the facility money on implementation issues such as Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) requirements, but to ensure that the country's limited maritime security resources are spent where the threat is the greatest.   Some Coast Guard personnel may attribute this disparity to individual Captain of the Port (COTP) authority. But in reality, many of these mistakes were made initially due to a lack of understanding of the applicability and policy guidance. We have been successful in getting a number of these facility footprints corrected through the Coast Guard's formal appeals process, saving the facilities thousands of dollars and hopefully avoiding future misappropriation of port security grant money.   Industry should not shy away from questioning the opinions of enforcement personnel out of fear of retaliation. The Coast Guard's policy is that it encourages appeals from industry. Everyone benefits from a constructive dialogue. Going along with things that you know are incorrect usually just leaves you chasing your tail every time a new inspector shows up. 

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Maritime Security Lesson from an Environmental Disaster

 As we wait for the results of the investigation into the BP/ Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one thing appears fairly certain based upon currently published information, and that is that corners may have been cut and unnecessary risks may have been taken. This is not really surprising. We cut corners and take calculated risks every day, often with no negative consequences. Who has never exceeded the speed limit while driving? The natural reaction of politicians and bureaucrats is to make more laws and regulations to fix the problems before we know for sure what the problems are. We may find that the problem wasn't a lack of adequate laws and regulations, but perhaps it was the lack of enforcement, oversight and compliance with the existing laws and regulations. If so, why would the level of enforcement, oversight and compliance drop to a level where an accident like this might occur? Perhaps because they had not had a major accident with similar operations in the recent past to remind them of the threat. BP was reportedly celebrating a safety milestone at the time of the disastrous blowout. If people have not experienced a major accident in quite some time, their minds allow them to believe the threat has become diminished. In actuality the threat has not diminished with the passage of time, but still corners are cut and unnecessary risks are taken, because the precautions that once seemed necessary may now seem like overkill.  Following the attacks of 9/11, the international community passed the ISPS code. Ships, boats, ports and facilities around the world are required to implement security plans which address all relevant threat scenarios. As the years go by without major successful attacks, it is human nature to let our guard down because in our minds the threat has diminished. It has not. Even after six years of full implementation of maritime security plans, many do not understand the threat or the requirements. Do enforcement personnel understand their roles and give full attention to the security programs, or are they still focused mostly on signage and paperwork? Do industry members have good plans that address specific threat scenarios and give clear and concise guidance to those charged with implementing them? Are proper screening, monitoring and drilling conducted as intended by the regulations? We can't go back in time and make those involved in the BP/ Deepwater Horizon disaster make different decisions, but going forward we can ensure we do not lose sight of the threats to our security in the maritime industry. Imagine the answers that would be given to Anderson Cooper on CNN in the weeks following a terrorist attack involving your vessel or port facility. Would they be adequate? Or would it be déjà vu?

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