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Tanker vetting: is SIRE still fit for purpose?

September 2, 2020 Maritime Safety News

AWP Marine Consultancy’s Captain Wyn Price, an active OCIMF SIRE auditor and Dania Ship Management general manager, head of vetting Torben Hertel tackled issues related to SIRE inspections and the expectations of operators.

Noting the subjective aspects of the risk management criteria oil majors employ, Mr Hertel said there is a need to address and reduce inconsistencies between oil majors’ and inspectors’ interpretations of the VIQ7 (Vessel Inspection Questionnaire, 7th Edition) questions.

As vetting “is an assessment of safety on board,” he said, there ought to be an agreed upon set of best practice standards for tanker vetting.

Recognising the value of Port State Control (PSC) inspections, Mr Hertel said there are many countries where PSC is “a little bit challenging, and again here, we as operators and vessel owners sometimes suffer from over-enthusiastic PSC inspectors”.

In light of the need for vetting to create value and enhanced transparency, Mr Hertel said it is debateable if the SIRE programme is still fit for purpose or needs updating.

He said it may be time to bring in more robust ways of measuring safety, perhaps by introducing a safety score system in contrast to traditional vetting practices.

With Dania’s parent company V.Group running ShipSure, a digital data-collection platform, Mr Hertel said there may be instances where a ship undergoes a poor vetting process but the data trends observed via ShipSure may indicate the vessel is in fact safe.

“What we need is an assessment of safety, not a single inspection snapshot of the vessel,” he said.

Some 88% of webinar attendees said they agree it is time for the tanker vetting process to be renewed or re-thought with 12% disagreeing, and 68% said they think that the vetting system encourages trust and transparency with 32% disagreeing.

Captain Price said he believes that SIRE remains an important way of benchmarking safety and that physical inspections remain a key part of the safety process.

PSC inspections have become more integral to the overall vetting process which in turn has increased scrutiny of SIRE reports. He added that the system currently works so that as PSC inspectors become more highly trained, their reports gain more credibility.

However, SIRE’s aims are shifting, Captain Price said, and VIQ7 is more focused toward crew competence, which is, in his view, the appropriate area to focus on in the future. He said priority should be given to training and competence of seafarers and demonstration of operational knowledge on board and that paperwork should be reduced.

Only 14% of inspection observations concerned crew competence according to a poll of attendees, with machinery maintenance, cosmetic and navigation issues making up 31% and the majority concerned with safety management practices, at 65%.

Panellists encouraged vessel owners and operators to make the most out of SIRE inspections by training staff with the VIQ and how to engage with inspectors. As Captain Price said “Very often I find that the vessel staff are not aware of what the inspector requires and often they are quite distracted from the inspection itself and have no real interest in the process.”

In response to a question that different SIRE inspectors come to different outcomes when vetting the same vessel, Captain Price said this may indicate a lack of understanding on the part of the inspectors but that vessel staff may also give differing responses to questions as “different personnel may understand questions in a different way”. From the inspection side, inspectors are offered a refresher course as part of their training to help interpret new legislation.

While a self-assessment by the vessel staff can provide a useful benchmark for the inspector, Captain Price said the physical inspection is indispensable and that the remote SIRE inspection programme “must be used as a temporary measure” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

By a slim margin, webinar attendees agreed with this view, with 51% of them backing remote inspections exclusively where physical inspection is impossible.

You can view this webinar and all of the webinars from Riviera’s Tanker Shipping & Trade Webinar Week, in full, in our webinar library.

News: rivieramm