Over the past three years the IMO has redefined the concept of safe manning of vessels and as a result, as of January, conditions should change. Flag states and shipowners must now safely and transparently meet the unique operational and administrative needs of each vessel.
Until now minimum safe manning was certified in accordance with company proposals which were then rubber-stamped by the flag state, and which took into account only the vessel’s ability to navigate and manage basic emergencies. No allowance had been made for other crew duties, taking into account frequency of port calls, cargo operations, maintenance or administrative tasks. This process has been open to abuse by companies seeking to cut costs by cutting crew size.
Minimally manned vessels have been shown to directly impact crew fatigue and have been cited in numerous high profile groundings and collisions, many of which had disastrous consequences for the seafarers and the environment.
IMO Assembly Resolution A 27/Res.1047 outlines elements to consider when determining safe manning for all functions on a vessel. In addition the Maritime Safety Committee adopted a change to SOLAS and made an amendment to the International Safety Management (ISM) Code to ensure vessels are properly manned.
ITF IMO accredited representative Branko Berlan explained, “Although regulatory changes happened in 2011 and 2012, administrations, companies and port state control inspectors have yet to implement them. The cumulative effect of these latest actions is that they will be legally required to do so.”
“Seafarer’s organisations need to become more proactive by using the media and legal system to force the proper determination of vessel manning in a transparent way. Ultimately these changes are about seafarer safety, that’s why we’re so keen to make sure our affiliates know about them and can take steps to make them a reality. Only a concerted effort to force the implementation of these IMO instruments will result in properly manned vessels.”