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ISM Code :
The ISM designated person ashore: what a job!

(page Nº15)

      Called IDP, DP, DPA or another PD, this key person of the ISM code has badly run some ink already, but I would like to make here an exhaustive assessment of this problem because…it is a real problem isn’t?

  1. Warning

  2.       The ISM Code presents requirements which must be regarded as a minimum; any additional requirement can come only from the flag or Port State, the company itself or the ship.

    Reference: :
          "Pour To ensure the safe operation of each ship and to provide a link between the Company and those on board, every Company, as appropriate, should designate a person or persons ashore having direct access to the highest level of management. The responsibility and authority of the designated person or persons should include monitoring the safety and pollution prevention aspects of the operation of each ship and ensuring that adequate resources and shore-based support are applied, as required.

  3. History

  4.       The idea of a code for management was in the spirit of the maritime industry since the middle of the Eighties, however the concept of the Designated Person Ashore appeared only after the accident of HOFE (HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE) on 6.3.87 at the exit of ZEEBRUGE causing the loss of 188 human lives.
          Deeply chocked by this accident, the British "invented" the Designated Person. He acts, in addition to the normal staff of a traditional shipping company, to have a person especially designated to ensure a reliable connection between the management and the sailors and to supervise the operations of their ships. Why ?
          Remember, the Management of Townsend-Thoresen, was recognized guilty of failure in the management of safety of its ferries and it was estimated that a person particularly designated to deal with the problems of safety in the company was missing.
          This failure was regarded as one of the causes of the accident. This was perhaps the case in this company, but in the majority of the other shipping companies, a marine superintendent – with assistants for large companies - was traditionally the "Safety Officer" in charge of all the problems of safety of ships and operations.
          The General Management of TOWNSEND THORESEN reorganized its management structure after the trial and named an Operation manager having a marine qualification !
          The General Management of TOWNSEND THORESEN reorganized its management structure after the trial and named an Operation manager having a marine qualification!
          This concept of Designated Person Ashore presented by the British had problems to enter in the successive resolutions of IMO on the management of safety; once again it is a dramatic accident, the fire on board “SCANDINAVIAN STAR” in April 90 making 158 dead, which has boosted the Resolution A 680 in 1991 and then the famous Resolution A 741 in 1993 which is the official birth of the ISM Code such as we know it.
          The concept of the Designated Person Ashore is maintained by the British and thus finally ratified in its current form by the working group on the ISM then by the MSC and finally by the 17th assembly of IMO in 93.

  5. Study of the text of the code:

  6.       Though written in a strange manner, the text is rather clear: the responsibilities and the minimum authority of the DPA (Designated Person Ashore) are found there:

    • Provide a link between the Company and those on board, … a person ashore having direct access to the highest level of management
            by highest management we include the decisional level in particular at the financial level and when we speak about those on board we think of all the crew members because if not, the code would have said the ship or the captain.
            This lack of connection was clarified by the court in the accident of HOFE and specifies in its “attendus”: "the need for… maintenance of proper channels of communication between Ship and Shore for the receipt and dissemination of information"

    • The responsibility and authority of the designated person or persons should include monitoring the safety and pollution prevention aspects of the operation of each ship (which we will call monitoring task N°1):
            Often forgotten, this responsibility of the Designated Person is not simple to ensure. Indeed, how, from shore, supervise the operations of each ship concerning safety and environmental protection?
            Bad habits taken by the crews of TOWNSEND THORESEN (several ships were concerned) to leave the port with ship’s doors open and/or with a negative trim of almost 1m, would have perhaps been abandoned if a person, charged to supervise the operations, had informed the highest level of the management of these bad habits!

    • include…. ensuring that adequate resources and shore-based support are applied, as required. (monitoring task N°2):
             The requests of the HOFE’s Captains (and others ferries) which had taken their responsibility in these bad practices with a unique commercial aim (departure before the time, arrival on time, maximum of passengers or freight) were not granted but did not receive any answer even a verbal refusal !.
      They asked for:
      • Warning lamps for the opening of the front doors (doors were invisible from the bridge), request which made laughing the "directors" ….they acknowledge in front of the court!
      • Replacement of the ballast pump by a more powerful one to accelerate the correction of trim after the departure
      • Request for calculation of stability in this significant negative trim situation (abnormal situation not studied in the stability booklet)
            These requests of the captains thus were blocked at the "operations" level by one or more of the non competent persons in the fields concerned.
            A qualified person ashore having these competences and seeing these requests could have intervened and at least ensured an answer to the captains.

    • NB: The legal implications of the responsibilities for the designated person appeared very quickly to the industry and the opinions or studies are published since 1996.

  7. What is this job finally ?

    1. Connection task

    2.       This connection is significant, universally understood and applied: it is a question of ensuring a reliable connection between the highest management level and the persons on board each ship.
            The connections between the Captains and the top management generally exist. For smaller companies, the problem does not arise (the General Manager is always close to his ships which are sometimes his own assets), for others ... perhaps, though today a Captain always can, via mail or e mail or mobile phone, contact directly the General manager". So, we do not need a Designated Person for that!
            Traditionally the other officers on board have frequent connections with the persons in charge ashore ( Chief engineer with the Technical Superintendent, Chief Officer with the Safety Officer, Purser with the Head of Catering department etc.).
            The other crew members have means of communication with the Marine Superintendent or the Management ashore via their heads of department, their representatives on board (trade-union or safety representative, safety committee etc…) if they exist.

            Why do they need another communication way?

            It is of course about another communication way which could be used if the traditional ways mentioned above would not work!
      The causes can be multiple :
      • Dysfunction at the intermediate level (case of the HOFE)
      • Dysfunction at the Captain’s level (not taken into account or personal implication of the Captain)
      • Dysfunction at the level of the head of service (not taken into account or lapse of memory)
      • Quite simply, at the level of the crew members, timidity or fear of reactions of close or immediate management (existing culture in to day multi-national crews)
            It is to compensate this type of dysfunction and to create a communication way which will work every time: the ISM way!

            The ISM way is a parallel way, used when the normal or traditional ways do not work: it is a sort of By-pass!

            This supplementary communication way :
      • Applied to the case of the HOFE, the accident would certainly have avoided: via the designated person the captains reaches the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) which, knowing very well his responsibilities when he is informed, will hasten to find the solution because the obligation of "due diligence" is of primary importance for the insurer.
      • Applied to other cases where the behaviour of the Captain or officers did not correspond to their responsibilities (Officer of the watch under influence of alcohol, Captain in front of certain fraudulent intrigues on board), this connection would have perhaps avoided some dramas (spectacular groundings, dramatic jettison of stowaways)
      • Etc.

            This interpretation passes well with the crews by however a training or adequate information in order to avoid some mistakes as: ISM way used to claim or settle up a score!

      NB : This way is to be used with intelligence of course and the DPA must be capable to try to regulate the problem at the operational level before going to strike at the "big boss" level. Sometimes the DPA has his budget and the possibility to order as far as a certain sum fixed by the finance management (this joined the monitoring N°2, see next)
            Elementary flow chart of the ISM communication way

      Proposition for operating a shipping company in conformity with the ISM code

      Consequently, the Safety Management System (SMS) of the company must envisage the operation of this connection :

      • Reality of the possibility for the designated person to contact the CEO for a problem which can not be solved at the operational level
      • Proof of evidence of transmission (E mail/recording/letter)
      • The name and the role of DPA are known of all persons on board; moreover small posters on the bridge and in crew accommodations give all directions
      • The designated person (or her substitute) can be touched 24/7 mainly by telephone or E mail.

            The SMS will not forget to specify the responsibilities for DPA in this transmission.

            In the event of accident, the court looking for the cause, will seek which did not ensure "due diligence". The responsibility for the designated person could be required if by misfortune, he did not transmit to the head of company, as it is his duty according to the ISM Code, significant information related to a possible cause of accident.
            Often, to frighten a little, the designated person who had not seen these possible consequences of his acts, I speak of the maximum sentencing which they risk in the event of judgement in the United Kingdom (£ 5.000 and/or 2 years)… hard!

    3. Monitoring Nº1

    4.       It is materially impossible to ensure the monitoring of safety of the operations of each ship without having on each ship a person to do it!
            Many authors have failed by proposing many solutions… except the good one!
            Indeed the DPA can ensure part of this monitoring via visits/inspections on board during calls or trips, the follow-up of shipboard recordings as safety drills reports, familiarisation recordings, maintenance and periodic tests of all ship’s equipment, safety and training meetings, orders for repairs or spare parts, captains reviews and of course the internal audits. .... but it is only a control a fortiori!
            Indeed, nothing is better than control on the spot, during the operations. So do we need a representative of the designated person on board, a controller in situ in charge of supervising… the work of the others?
            It is astonishing that only a few persons, at my knowledge, have seen that the code itself had envisaged the solution: remember, the responsibilities of the Captain include that he must "verify that specified requirements are observed " (ISM Code § 5.1.4) ie he must supervise:
      • that all ship’s operations, all activities are carried as it should be,
      • that the ship must be in a state such as it has been envisaged by rules and regulations and ….the SMS
      • etc.

      … the Captain is thus the natural representative of the designated person on board !

            These tasks of continuous monitoring and especially of remote monitoring for the DPA require obviously an excellent knowledge of the operations to be supervised.

            The relations between the DPA and the Captain are thus privileged relations corresponding to the § 4 of the ISM Code.

    5. Monitoring Nº2

    6.       The DPA will not be able to ensure that the company brings its adequate supports to the Captain only being aware about the needs expressed by the Captain and the conditions of these requests.
            So, the DPA must be on the circuit of the ships requests about safety and prevention of pollution in normal conditions (stores or demand of repairs or technical refit) or in emergency (specific Captain’s requests to help him to manage the situation).
            So the DPA must be in the crisis cell and be recipient, in one way or another, of the applications for repairs and lists of work carried out (or not carried out) during repairs or technical refits.
            The DPA, and this is linked to the § 4.1, often has the possibility to answer for requests refused by another budget but, in an certainly low financial level (the management is their removing a pain in his neck because he doesn’t want to see their officers squabbling and thus avoids disturbances for often ridiculous sums)

            In conclusion, our study of the § 4 of the ISM code lays down a DPA well apart of the normal operational circuit of a shipping company; so much apart that nothing prevents the DPA not being an executive of the company
            The designated person can come, for example, from the head office, from another part of the group or from a specialized sub-contracting company.
            Numbers of small companies see in this solution the response to their problems and some plan to share the same designated person between a few small companies!

            All that is theory, see now what is the real practise!

  8. Inventory of fixtures today :

  9.       Practically, the real job of the DPA is not always the same one according to the companies and their safety culture, and all companies do not have the means "of having" such a qualified person in charge of supervising the operations of the ships everywhere around the world and who will be necessarily "expensive".
          Indeed, I do meet a DPA really apart of the operational management only in "rich" companies” or at least of a certain size. Indeed, I do meet a DPA really apart of the operational management only in "rich" companies” or at least of a certain size.

          We will study the 3 solutions, one after the other.

    • 1st case :

    • the DPA is the Safety Officer, the fleet or marine superintendent or his assistant.

            The connection task with the persons on board was always traditionally provided by them and this connection was ensured with the entire crew. It was sometimes paternalism, sometimes the Marine superintendent passed by the galley or the kitchen before going to see the Captain with sometimes of shameful intentions of getting information from the field or "gangway gossip". An information or demand which would not have passed the Captain’s office can thus theoretically go through this superintendent passage on board. It is easier to say that than to do it! And especially it is not instantaneous; but the letter (or the E mail now) directly to the Superintendent is of course also possible in this case.
            Except perhaps the direct letter to the marine superintendent, such a connection is traditional. In addition the fleet or marine superintendent is normally a person who has a direct access to the higher level of the company management.

            So we see that the connection task required by the ISM Code is ensured.

            The monitoring task N°1, 1 ie the monitoring of the safety aspects of ships operations is theoretically possible via the inspections of the captain himself, other inspections and audits which would be carried out by the Safety Officer or its representatives.
      That is not new either, you have known like me, these Captain-inspectors who accomplished sometimes an entire trip on board and then submitted their reports to the CEO.
            So, in theory, the requirement of monitoring task N°1 is also satisfied.

            The monitoring task N°2 ie monitoring that adequate resources and a support is given to the ship does not have here much sense except for a request directed towards the engineering department which can be totally independent of the traditional Marine department. Indeed the marine superintendent or Safety officer cannot control or monitor himself; to receive a request of which it has the decision and… to make sure that it will be satisfied if it is necessary! Judge and jury, two caps on only one head: it is impossible!

            So this requirement of monitoring is not satisfied in this case.

            Finally this solution thus does not seem in conformity because a requirement of the code cannot be satisfied and we are thus in major nonconformity (definition ISM Code, 2002 edition, § 1.1.10)
            In this case also, the role of DPA is not easy because there can be contradiction or opposition between a limited budget and a request of a captain who cannot wait. For a DPA/Superintendent, motivated and convinced of the utility of the ISM Code, such an obstacle could be raised only at the "higher level" with perhaps the effort of persuasion than you can imagine.
            Not really in conformity and not easy to run, especially for a motivated DPA. From responsibility also the situation is sensitive (see above)

      Example of 1st case diagram

    • 2nd case :

    • The designated person is a manager not having any responsibilities in the ship’s operations, safety or maintenance: for example the financial or marketing or human resources manager or research and development or, better, the quality manager.
            The General Manager or the President specified when he nominated this DPA, that he had a direct link with him and that he could, and even had to contact him constantly when it was necessary.
            In this case, it is more easy to ensure a reliable link between the personnel on board and the high level of the company, to ensure the monitoring of ship’s operations for safety and prevention of pollution with the assistance of the captains, as we have seen above and finally to check that if a support is provided to the captain so he can ensure his task and his responsibilities all time and not only in emergency.

            In this case, the three minimum requirements are satisfied

            Then, we can entrust the management of the Company’s SMS to the DPA, whereas the code does not envisage it at all.
            The SMS, if it is well made, envisages about all the ship’s life and the "SMS Manager" should be able with the help of the Captains and all the instruments of the ISM code, "to supervise" or to monitor the operations of each ship in connection with safety and environmental protection.

      2nd case flow chart (example)

            The organization above is satisfactory from the conformity with the ISM Code but there is a doubt about the ISM technical skill except if the Company ask for external advice.

      NB : In both cases above, even for a small company the ISM structure is at the limits: the external auditors are very doubtful on that indeed! It is not easy to prove that the system can really work. Indeed the workload for the person in charge with two caps is often too heavy.
            However, these companies often choose to use specialized consultants particularly to help them for internal audits ie for one of the most significant parts of the internal verification of conformity or operation.
            Sometimes also, these small companies which belong to a great group call the corporate HSE department of the group to ensure certain tasks related to the SMS:
      • Hygiene/Safety/Environment Inspections and audits
      • Accidents or near-misses analysis
      • Edition and control of SMS documentation
      • Internal audits
      • etc.

    • 3rd case:

    •       The application of the ISM code led important companies to create an ISM structure with staff, office and budget.
            This structure ensures the total management of the SMS including:
      • Connection between crews and the general manager
      • Connection with the captains for monitoring
      • Control and evolution of the SMS
      • Edition, corrections, revisions of SMS documents
      • Inspections and internal audits
      • Follow-up of nonconformities or other observations
      • Analyzes of the captains’ reviews
      • Analyzes of accidents and near-misses.
      • Preparation of the management review
      • ISM Training on board or ashore
      • Organization of conferences or training courses identified as necessary
      • Regulation watch-over including the analysis of amendments and the transmission of all information to the ships
      • The information of the company on improvements stated
      • etc.
            In this case, all the requirements of the code on the designated person are satisfied plus the requirements with the § 9, § 11 and mainly the §12.
            So we can go back on the ideal diagram at the beginning of this study.

      These structures are the best undoubtedly.

  10. In conclusion :

  11.       Only the third solution is satisfactory if we compare to the text of the Code.
          It is the only satisfactory solution for the certifier, the company and… for the designated person itself!

    But there is far from theory to reality!

    The problem of the designated person does not seem to be highlighted:
    • by considerable certification auditors which sometimes, we wonder that they have read the code before coming!
    • with certain companies which interpreted the code at their own manner

    This problem will not be long to arise, with the first ISM trial (ERIKA trail for example)       Mr. Philip ANDERSON (regarded as an ISM specialist in the United Kingdom) which does not agree completely with me, thinks that the precise details on the responsibilities of the DPA will be given only by the courts when they will have to treat of penal manner a huge post ISM accident. In France we call that “to kick the ball“!

  12. Bibliography

    • Report N° 8074 m/v HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE "Formal Investigation" dated 24th of July 1987
    • ISM Code : a practical guide to the legal and insurance implications (1998), Mr Philip ANDERSON Master Mariner, CEO of North of England P&I club, Vice-President of the Nautical Institute.
    Other recent publication of P. ANDERSON: A seafarer guide to ISM (2002) and “cracking the code” 2003.
Capt. Bertrand APPERRY

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