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Beyond Implementation of the ISM Code: The Rewards Of An Active Safety Management System

The requirement for implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by July of 1998 is by this time a familiar topic. Many shipping companies have begun the process of educating themselves to this new approach for operating their respective vessels and offices. Initially, most operators have been slightly less than enthusiastic to embrace this latest resolution from the IMO, but as with individual involvement with the ISM Code, the benefits of incorporating such a system within any shipping company's infrastructure gradually become apparent. The Code hasn't been drafted with the intention to completely change the way shipping companies operate today, but rather to allow individual companies to develop their own systems with the intention of promoting continual improvement within the entire industry over time. While developing a Safety Management System (SMS), it is perhaps most crucial that companies evaluate their efforts in terms of what effects their decisions today will have tomorrow.

The most meaningful initial consideration prior to implementation of the Code, is the determination by senior management of the level to which their company will comply with the Code. Degrees of compliance may vary from the most basic satisfaction of Code requirements, to a genuine internalization of its most central tenet ~ the perpetuation of continuous improvement within the SMS. While the decision to meet the barest of minimum requirements may result in receiving initial certification, Classification Society Registrars expect the SMS to provide objective evidence of improvement from year to year during the life of the certificate. To date, most shipping companies throughout the world already possess management systems which incorporate a number of the Code's basic principles. The items typically not addressed within most existing systems are precisely those which stimulate positive changes. The Code provides a variety of measures to promote improvement through active employment of the following principles: Reporting of Nonconformances and Near-Accidents; Procedures for the Implementation of Corrective Action; Master's Management Review; Internal Audits; and Management Review. These principles, which contribute to the living nature of an effective SMS, produce the benefit of assisting operators in maximizing returns on the investment of time, human resources and money within the company's management system. The greatest returns will be realized in a reduction of acci- April, 1996 dents and an eventual increase in efficiency as participation within the safety culture continues. By controlling the way a company performs a variety of functions and critical shipboard operations, the SMS will, by extension, provide for a large measure of Quality Control as well. Since the Code was borne out of accepted international Quality Standards, it should be of little surprise that this additional benefit really lies at the core of any effectively administered SMS. In this sense, the SMS achieves safety through quality management principles.

When considering how the Code will assist their respective operations, shipping companies must direct their focus beyond the implementation phase to truly appreciate how the active principles of the Code will channel efforts toward continual improvement. Positive changes within an organization are rarely the result of spontaneous luck. It is through the methodical and routine monitoring and objective self-assessment of various activities that continual improvement is effected.

Compared to the cost of an accident, implementing an SMS is relatively inexpensive.

By now this rationalization for implementing the Code seems a bit jaded. Since it isn't simply a matter of acceptance or approval of the code any longer, this slogan might best be replaced by one of the most direct expressions of the necessity for continual improvement in an increasingly competitive global market.

By maximizing their efforts to produce truly active Safety Management Systems within their organizations, shipping companies will not only be prepared to meet the requirements of the Code, but also appreciate positive growth individually and as a collective movement within the marine transportation business




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