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Technological advances ‘outpacing the regulatory system for shipping’

15 March 2018

The rapid pace of technological change threatens to render the International Maritime Organisation redundant, shipping industry experts have warned.

Opening the Transas Global Conference, company CEO Frank Coles said the way the industry is regulated has reached a ridiculous point, lagging far behind operational advances.

The old-fashioned structures of regulators, clubs, lobbies and representative bodies no longer fit with the new world. Nor do they move fast enough to keep up. Transas CEO Frank Coles

Safety standards are compromised by lobby groups that enable old-fashioned rules to remain in place, Mr Coles suggested. ‘Class and P&I clubs find themselves balancing safety against revenue. They know that enforcing or supporting the right decision could lose them clients,’ he added.

‘The attitude seems to be "what is the least we can get away with?". This is at odds with the aim of saving lives and property. Furthermore, it is at out of sync with a world that is becoming increasingly transparent, where anyone with a smartphone can become a whistleblower, where bad practices can no longer be covered up as easily as they once were,’ Mr Coles said.

He said shipping needs to overhaul the way it develops safety rules, following the example of industries like aviation and nuclear power.

Mr Coles’ comments were echoed at the International Salvage Union’s annual members’ day conference in London, where Futurenautics CEO Roger Adamson warned that the shipping industry is reaching the point where the linear development of regulations can no longer match the exponential growth of technology. The future may well see a form of self-regulation, he suggested, in which ‘real-time visibility’ of shipping operations enables improved scrutiny of safety and systems are used proactively and collaboratively to ensure that ‘we have vessels that have an accident rather than vessels which are an accident waiting to happen’.


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