TALKING POINT: How ship managers are walking the talk

March 19, 2024
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Each month, we will be sharing a discussion piece written by a member of the maritime industry who can offer a unique or interesting perspective on an aspect of seafarers’ welfare. You can join the conversation on our social media channels – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

This month, InterManager Secretary General, Capt. Kuba Szymanski, outlines how the association’s new General Principles of Conduct and Action are raising standards across the shipmanagement sector.

Captain Kuba Szymanski is the Secretary General for InterManager, the international trade association for the ship and crew management sector. During his sea career he sailed gas/chemical/product tankers and continues to maintain his Captain’s Licence. Moving ashore he gained a Certificate in Ship Superintendence and an MBA and worked as a Marine Superintendent, HSEQ Manager, Fleet Manager and General Manager. Through his role with InterManager, Capt. Szymanski has participated in many industry-wide projects. He chairs the Human Element Industry Group Enclosed Space Committee. Capt. Szymanski is a member of the Maritime Professional Council of the UK, and a fellow of the Nautical Institute. He chairs the HR and Renumeration Committee of the TK Foundation, is Chair of the Board of the Seafarers Hospital Society, and holds an Honorary Doctorate by Solent Southampton University in recognition of his contribution to the maritime industry. In his leisure time, Kuba is a keen yachtsman and sails competitively.

Shipmanagement has come a long way over the more than 30 years since InterManager, the sector’s trade association, came into force. Today the shipping industry is navigating its way towards ambitious decarbonisation goals, embracing digital solutions and enhancing its approach to seafarer welfare and inclusivity.

Which means that now is the right time for ship managers to commit to achieving higher standards and that’s why InterManager has introduced our ground-breaking General Principles of Conduct and Action. Launched during London International Shipping Week last September by our current President, Mark O’Neil, the new industry-wide General Principles reflect the fact that InterManager members are committed to achieving high standards as they provide an increasingly wide range of services to the global shipping industry.

InterManager’s General Principles of Conduct and Action set the collective principles that all InterManager members, and indeed the whole shipmanagement sector, should follow. They will be vital to their success in reaching the highest standards of ship operations. A great deal of thought has gone into the General Principles. InterManager members worked together on the project for two years, sharing their experience and agreeing on key goals.

The Principles are aspirational with no pass or fail but rather they represent a journey towards improved standards across a range of core elements of service. They are also dynamic and evolving and potentially will get even stronger over time.

Very much aligned with ESG (environment, social and governance) goals, the General Principles are grouped into four key areas: Care and Respect for People; Continuous Development and Optimisation; Effective Safety Culture; and Assessment and Verification.

The whole purpose of the General Principles is not to pass or fail but to show how positive change can be implemented and for that change to be wanted. For new members, self-assessment will be the initial step upon entry. The self-assessment stage is already underway with leading InterManager members aiming to have their initial results in late Spring. And in a bold step, InterManager members have welcomed confidential intermittent audits by a third party to verify progress.

InterManager is proud to be leading the industry by improving standards in this way and at a time when shipping is striving to meet sustainability goals.

I firmly believe that this process should be inclusive not exclusive, encouraging and aspirational as opposed to penalising, and co-operational as opposed to confrontational. I congratulate our members on working together to create the new General Principles of Conduct and Action and applaud their commitment to this industry-wide measure.

Already our General Principles are attracting widespread support from across the maritime community. We are pleased to have received endorsement from numerous leading shipping industry businesses and trade bodies – including ISWAN, which supports this important step forward for the shipping industry – and the list is growing daily.

InterManager’s view is that compliance will become a deciding factor for ship owners when choosing a ship manager. The General Principles must surely affect, and become a factor in, a vessel’s rating by commercial rating agencies and other shipping industry evaluations. The General Principles provide a means for our industry contacts to be discerning and choose between the managers who aspire to comply with a higher standard of operation and are willing to open themselves up to third party audit, and those who are not. In other words, those who talk the talk and those who walk it!

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