Intent versus implementation

02 Sep 2013 Bulletin: Issue 10 - Regulation Resource

Many in the marine industry perceive that the gulf between the intent of regulations and their practical implementation is getting wider. In certain cases this is creating an environment ripe for errors and uncertainty and therefore for even more regulations.

Take the ISM and the ISPS Codes as examples. Although these have an essential and positive role to play in our industry, how many of us can quantify the benefits of either of these regulations, particularly the ISM Code? We can certain- ly quantify the amount of paperwork and time and effort the implementation of these Codes has created. From the publicised statistics on Port State Control we see ISM as an increasingly important issue to get to grips with.

So what has gone wrong? Why have some regulations been more effectively implemented than others?

Is it because as in the case of the ISM and ISPS Codes they are both management nature are imprecise and open to variance and differing interpretations compared with the prescriptive nature of some other statutory regulations? Alternatively, perhaps one or more parties involved in the ISM supply chain apply the Code too subjectively, leading various interested parties to perceive the Code differently.

I suggest that putting this regulation back on track will involve placing increased focus on human factors integration. For example, if a crewmember or indeed, an ISM auditor or a Port State Control inspector, is conscientious about the implementation of the Safety Manage- ment System, how can he walk past a set of inoperative fire dampers or a poorly maintained piece of safety equipment without making some comment? This has happened in the past and by all accounts still does happen.

I believe the IMO has started to make real progress by introducing the Human but the practical interpretation and implementation is in need of much development. The ISM Code, because of its subjective nature, generates a multitude of procedures, which in turn need to be presented in a more comprehensive, simplistic ‘human’ man- ner to make the management system more effective.

There are a number of tools available to achieve this, including process mapping, task analysis, mind mapping, work flowcharts and even checklists to name but a few. Each tool can offer a constructive mechanism to bridge the gap between practical implementation and the subjective nature of legislation. Perhaps by bridging this gap the industry can achieve a quantifiable benefit.

Maybe this view is too simplistic, but without doubt we need to take action. If we fail to effectively implement existing regulation, we will only get more of the same.