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DBMS details a new path to improve standards in dry bulk

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Dry Bulk,

Luke Fisher, Project Lead, DBMS, outlines a new path to improve the standards in dry bulk. Like many industries and areas of the global supply chain, shipping is increasingly recognising the need to create and maintain robust operating standards. Societal pressure is mounting for our industry to evolve and operate with a mindset that pays close attention to safety, welfare and environmentalism, in line with the greater visibility shipping is generally enjoying.

DBMS details a new path to improve standards in dry bulk

This visibility is manifesting itself in many ways. For example, new and different lines of ship finance are opening up, giving investors a greater eye into the workings of the shipping industry. Charterers are taking a greater interest in fuel choice and clean technologies, as evidenced by the acceleration of these solutions over the last decade. And more media scrutiny of events such as 2020’s crew change crisis and the sector’s route to decarbonisation are heightening the requirement for owners, operators and managers to demonstrate that they are serious about improving standards.

Of course, there is a growing consensus that shipping is safer, and that a more rounded approach to standards by owners and operators, combined with a stronger regulatory environment, has made a significant contribution to cutting incidents and losses.

This does not mean that we can rest on our laurels. There is no ceiling to standards. Stretching beyond the compliance baseline is reliant on us coming together, collaborating, and creating new mindsets and cultures of safety to drive constant improvement.

We believe that collaboration can change industries. With greater transparency and the right arenas for discussion, we can drive meaningful improvements.

We all understand that dry bulk shipping is vital to the world economy. However, the continued foundering of ships and loss of life – not to mention the commercial pressures and changing demands of an evolving world economy – drive a real need for us to improve standards.

Dry bulk also has the perfect landscape for greater collaboration and conversation between operators of all sizes. Many of the challenges we face are similar, but the solutions may differ depending on fleet size or region. Building a clear roadmap for improvement is not easy, given the complexity of a typical dry bulk carrier’s operations. However, by implementing a programme of incremental improvements a company can move towards operational excellence in a low risk manner.

This collaborative spirit is one of the core principles behind the development of the Dry Bulk Management Standard (DBMS). DBMS was developed to help fill a gap in the dry bulk sector and allow us to operate in an area beyond the minimum expectations. DBMS has been created by a working group from across the dry bulk sector, bringing together the shared experiences of owners, operators and managers. Despite representing various organisations, all contributors hold a passion to see the entire dry bulk sector achieve excellence.

The DBMS sets out 30 areas of management practice within four sections: Performance, People, Plant and Processes. It incorporates current international legislation, recognised guidelines and best practice from across the industry – not just in dry bulk shipping.

Importantly, DBMS is built on the principle of self-assessment. This relies on the fact that no one better intuitive understanding of the scope and scale of operations as an owner, operator or manager would, far more than any third-party inspector would. Equally, this self-assessment approach helps to create a mindset of improvement at the very top of an organisation, driving greater internal collaboration and forming the networks that help to improve standards.

Simultaneously, drawing on the deep operational knowledge that the company’s staff hold and by allowing a pathway for their input, DBMS can create a truly shared journey for improvement, at every level within an organisation.

Since the launch of DBMS in draft form in Spring 2020, we have received considerable interest and feedback from a wide cross-section of both the dry bulk segment and peers in the supply chain. The standards are more than just a set of suggestions; they are a roadmap that enables even the smallest stages of iterative improvement. While regulations are of course necessary for progress to be made with safety, now is the time for operators to develop a mindset and aspire to operate beyond this baseline. Furthermore, this needs to be a shared journey, where we take our peers with us, and help to prove that we are proud to exist in a sector that is on a roadmap towards excellence and operate in a market under greater scrutiny.

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Dry bulk shipping market