Editor's Note

Wednesday, April 18, 2001
Quality, quality, quality. Ship and boat owners seeking to build a long-term profitable marine business are making this factor the cornerstone of decision making. Whether it be mandated by new legislation, or simply chosen as a marketable competitive advantage, companies that own and operate vessels should be demanding that everything — from vessel design, to equipment and systems, to personnel training techniques — are of the highest quality, or more accurately, the highest quality within the company’s budget.

Marine companies in 2001 and beyond are seemingly in a perpetual battle to prove that their company, their industry, is a quality run operation, and an operation that is the most cost-effective, environmentally sound method of moving cargo, as compared to air, road, and rail. Unfortunately, though, a scant number of high-profile disasters and the resulting pollution problems — the latest being the sinking of the Petrobras rig off of Brazil — leave an indelible mark on the mind of the public, thus forcing legislators to act, sometimes in haste.

At a recent meeting of the Ship Operations Cooperative Program (SOCP) in New Orleans, owners and operators representing some of the largest inland marine companies in the world — Kirby, Ingram Barge Co., Canal Barge Co., etc. — stressed the need for marine companies to be proactive in promoting the industry’s “good news.” In addition, the companies discussed the steps that must be taken, such as investment in new technology and a strong commitment to training and education, that will lead to an overall raising of the standards bar.

In fact, three of the world’s leading classification societies, ABS, DNV and LR, have developed a series of initiatives designed to improve safety in international shipping. Germanischer Lloyd’s Lutz Wittenberg goes so far as to suggest that the classification societies should become the technical knowledge providers over the life of the ship, rather than the rules enforcer. Mr. Wittenberg’s views are detailed in David Tinsley’s Investment in Design column.

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