key note address - NI HKG

logo HK branch
HK flag
Go to content

key note address

archive > archive documents

Roger Tupper, Director of Marine
HKSAR Government - P.R. China

ISM Code and Designated Person Ashore -The Role and Responsibilities of Flag States
(Nautical Institute 2008Command Series Seminars - 6 November 2008)

Chairman, Distinguished Speakers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to address this seminar, the final of the  four Nautical Institute Command Seminars held this year. First of all I would like to thank John for his kind invitation and the members of the Nautical Institute Hong Kong Branch for all their hard work in organizing this important seminar.

Your efforts ingathering such highly qualified speakers has attracted an enthusiastic audience from the Hong Kong shipping industry providing a solid foundation for a successful seminar today.

The theme of this Command Seminar is on the Designated Person Ashore.

In the old days this referred to the wife, a very important person who kept the home fires burning and brought up the kids whilst we sailed the seven seas. In today’s world the Designated Person Ashore or DPA has not diminished in importance being a critical figure whose performance is vital to the success of the safety management system of a company under the ISM Code.
Maritime history from the days of Samuel Plimsoll saw development of the regulation of ship safety focused mainly on the condition of ships and competence of crew, effected through international maritime conventions and governed by safety surveys on ships and training and examination of seafarers. The importance of proper management had not been given due weight. This changed following a number of very serious accidents in the 1980’s caused primarily by human error on board and where management faults ashore were identified as major contributing factors. The sinking ofthe RO-RO passenger ferry “Herald Of Free Enterprise” when departing Zeebrugge in 1987 with the bow doors wide open is often cited as the trigger of change. That trigger cost 193 lives with a litany of poor shore management decisions complicit in the tragedy.

Everyone agreed something needed to be done.
Following the “Herald of Free Enterprise“disaster the IMO started to address how to set standards of how not only ships but also shipping companies were managed based on experience already gained in the development of quality management practices under ISO accreditation in many industries. The IMO can never be criticized for rushing into anything and it was ten years before the ISM Code was implemented in 1998.

The process under the ISM Code in essence provides a tool to monitor the performance of a company in managing the safety and pollution prevention of its ships. It defines the management role of all those responsible for ship operations and also provides for a specific ship-shore linkage, the DPA, to avoid any confusion in responsibilities between a company and its ship staff and documented as the Safety Management System or SMS. An effective SMS should allow any causes of violation or non-compliance to be readily identified so that remedial actions could be taken without delay to maintain the vessels operation as fit for purpose at all times.
Unsurprisingly for the launch of such a new process the ISM Code was not embraced willingly by many in the industry at the beginning. Seasoned old salts begrudged that for the first time the work on board and its linkage with shore management was being scrutinized by regulators who were regarded as having little knowledge of ship management. Regulators too found the process daunting at the outset. After a number of years of implementation, the concept of safety management is now generally well understood and accepted. In fact both regulators and the industry have learned a lot from the experience gained and we continue to build on this strengthen relationship to meet the challenge of higher standards and new technologies.

Hong Kong implemented the ISM Code at its inception in 1998. As with most statutory safety surveys and certification for HongKong registered cargo ships, we have authorized the nine recognized classification societies to carry out ISM audits and certification on SMS on our behalf for such ships and their management companies.

As a quality control and audit measure Marine Department surveyors participate in, at our own cost, one periodical DOC audit together with Class for each management company that operates Hong Kong registered cargo ships. The purpose of this arrangement is not only to monitor the process of effective implementation of the SMS of management companies, but also to allow our surveyors to participate in face-to-face discussion between Class and management with the aim of achieving continuous improvement. Our surveyors also take such opportunities to assess the performance of Class when they are conducting DOC audits on our behalf. Furthermore, when carrying out Flag State Quality Control inspections for Hong Kong registered cargo ships whose standards are identified to be less satisfactory by our assessment system, our surveyors take the opportunity examine the effective implementation of SMS of these ships. There are about 250 management companies operating Hong Kong registered cargo ships and growing in number I am happy to say. We have participated in DOC audits for over 200 companies and are actively pursuing the audit arrangements for the remainder.

For Hong Kong registered passenger ships, including highspeed craft trading between Hong Kong and Macau, all statutory survey, certification and ISM audits are required to be carried out by our surveyors under the existing legislation. At present, there are four management companies operating 54 high-speed craft. It is expected that the number of high-speed craft will increase to 60 in 2009. We attach critical importance to the safety management standard of these companies and their vessels and whenever necessary take measures to ensure their performance.

The wording of the ISM Code requires every company to designate a person or persons ashore having direct access to the highest level of management in order to ensure the safe operation of each ship and to provide a link between the company and those on board. It also requires management companies to ensure that adequate resources and shore-based support are provided to enable DPAs to carry out their functions.

Although the ISM Code does not specifically state what the qualification and experience requirements of a DPA should be, the IMO issued a circular in October 2007 to provide the “Guidance of the qualifications, training and experience necessary for undertaking the role of the designated person under the provisions of the ISM Code”. In general we agree to the provisions in the Guidance, in particular those regarding the training and experience requirements.

Nevertheless, we are of the view that if a DPA is an ex-mariner with in-depth knowledge and command experience on shipboard operations, it enables him or her to promote and implement the SMS on board more effectively such that the final goal of ensuring safety at sea, prevention of human injury or loss life and avoidance of damage to the marine environment could be more readily achieved.

Moreover, a DPA should hold a senior management position in the company. This will enable the person to effectively influence the mind-set, attitudes and behaviour of subordinate shore staff to enhance support of vessel operations; as well as acting as a key link in the safety management chain directly to the highest-level management of his company for required support and resources.

It is encouraging that management companies have shown an inclination to appoint senior managers with seafaring experience to take up the DPA role. After which quite rightly they are required to attend appropriate training courses such as ISM internal auditor and ISM lead auditor training courses and be involved in drawing up and subsequent reviews of the SMS manual of his company.

In Hong Kong most leading management companies have appointed senior officers with direct access to top management to take up the post of DPA and be solely responsible for development and implementation of SMS. This arrangement allows the DPA to focus their efforts on promotion of the safety culture of the company on board ship and fully discharge their duties under the ISM Code for continuous improvement. If of course he or she has adequate resources to do so, always an important factor in any shipping business. Our statistics indicate that such companies encounter less trouble on PSC inspections and a smaller number of serious accidents.

However, we have observed that some smaller management companies have adopted a different arrangement. Their DPAs multi task and are required to deal with other shipping operations in addition to ISM work. Our experience shows that such companies comparatively receive a greater number of non-conformity items during ISM audits and their ships are often targeted for PSC

Therefore if you are a small company where the DPA is required to hold other operational responsibilities within his company, it is important that adequate resources should be provided to enable him to fully discharge his duties as a DPA. This can be achieved by the establishment of a deputy DPA or other supporting technical staff to share the workload such as follow up on non-conformities, arrangement of audits and updating of documentation of SMS.

From the standpoint of a regulator our experience shows that there is a clear relationship between the general standard of a ship and how effective its company is in the implementation of ISM Code

requirements. Indeed, the ISM Code has helped to upgrade the safety standards of Hong Kong registered ships as evidenced by the improving PSC inspection records.

Like any other control mechanism, the effectiveness of ISM lies in the attentiveness and thoroughness of its implementation.

Those involved in the implementation of the ISM Code, in particular DPAs, should never regard it as a paper exercise otherwise the attitude becomes self fulfilling for your company. A positive and proactive attitude will make full use of the Code as a tool to identify shortcomings for continuous improvement to enhance safety and pollution prevention standards on your company ships and save both lives and money.

The biggest challenge for us all today, ladies and gentlemen is to identify and recruit into our ranks the next generation of bright young people to manage our shipping industry, the biggest industry in the world now that high finance has come down to earth with a big  thud. To train them, give them experience at sea and then develop their management skills to take up the role of DPAs when you and I are retired, is indeed a major task but one this industry must rise to.

Thank you!

Postal Address:

The Nautical Institute Hong Kong Branch
c/o StormGeo Ltd.
3603 Wu Chung House
213 Queen's Road East
Wan Chai, Hong Kong - S.A.R  P.R. China
Copyright ©2000 - 2024 The Nautical Institute Hong Kong Branch
15 June 2024
Back to content