The Dry Bulk Management Standard – equipping owners with a pathway for continuous improvement

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the shipping industry has visibly felt the pressure and importance of maintaining operational integrity, as crews and vessels work tirelessly to underpin the world economy. Still, 2020 leaves our industry facing a future filled with uncertainty.

In many respects, we are used to uncertainty. The last decade has increasingly seen our sector evolve in line with wider expectations of a modern heavy industry that has an integral role in global trade. No longer an invisible force, shipping is increasingly under the spotlight.

That is why we must continue to move forward. Instead of COVID-19 kicking off a period of retreat, we must embrace our central and recognised role in our modern lives and continue to advance the improvements that our industry needs. Central to all of this is the safety of crew and vessels; unequivocally the most important factor in maintaining the integrity of our operations.

The dry bulk sector has seen significant safety improvement over the past ten years, as ISM standards and general professionalisation help to foster better-operating practices and greater investment.

However, as a progressive sector, there is a real need to step ahead of base compliance. As scrutiny increases, safety will become a key tool for commercial success amongst fleets. Establishing a clear pathway and framework for improvement, that is based on the increasingly collaborative links that our sector is making, will be crucial if we are to realise widespread operational improvements in dry bulk over the coming years.

When it comes to fostering organisational-wide safety improvements, culture is key. A robust safety culture means that practices, systems and procedures are followed and developed, even when they are not being scrutinised or evaluated. With many competing priorities, this might seem hard to properly pursue, so it is crucial that the right tools are on hand to help create a strong safety culture for dry bulk.

Luke Fisher, Project Lead – Dry Bulk Management Standard (DBMS)

The Dry Bulk Management Standard (DBMS), which was launched as a draft, open for industry feedback in March 2020, represents a significant development as we look to improve safety across the entire dry bulk sector.

DBMS is based on deep collaboration amongst a representative cross-section of dry bulk owners, managers and risk management experts, all who have a common vision of a consistent culture of safety and improving standards across the entire dry bulk fleet.

Developing DBMS was a real collaborative effort and we wanted to draw on the experiences of owners and operators who have mixed dry and wet bulk fleets, as well as leveraging the strengths of those that solely operate in the dry trade. Vessels and crew across both types can be maintained and protected to the same ideals. While DBMS serves dry bulk, it also recognises that we can learn from safety standards and processes across our industry.

We believe DBMS is a dynamic way for owners and managers to review their practices, benchmark against industry peers and develop a roadmap that takes their operations beyond base compliance. DBMS enfranchises owners because it uses their unparalleled knowledge of their own operations, which no third party can match, and gives them the tools to realise improvements in areas that work for them, across four key priority areas; People, Plant, Process and Performance.

Picking any of these areas will give dry bulk operators a simple route to targeted improvement. Even the smallest of efforts taken today get the ball rolling on wider dry bulk segment safety improvement.

The DBMS has been developed by the industry, for the industry and with the safety, welfare and interest of the seafarer at its heart. It has drawn on the passions of those with the lived experience of improving safety within their own fleets, and who believe that this should be shared.

It also acknowledges that dry bulk operators do not need additional burdens. Providing a simple pathway means that it can be effective with any fleet, of any size and by any end-users who want to set themselves on the path towards continual improvement in safety.

The dry bulk sector now needs to build on the momentum it has gathered to drive further safety improvements. We believe that the right culture will be pivotal in making this happen. By realising that safety improvements can happen at even the smallest level, we can all play our part in ‘rising the tide’ of safety and standards across dry bulk, and the wider shipping sector.
Source: Dry Bulk Management Standard (DBMS), By Luke Fisher Project Lead, DBMS, as arranged on behalf of Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide (

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