Report reveals systemic regulatory failures affecting seafarers

Specifically, the analysis indicates that insufficient manning is the root cause of violations especially during peak workload conditions. Imbalance between workload and manning levels indicate that flag States do not always fulfil responsibilities, nor do they ensure that shipowners carry out theirs with due regard to efficient and sufficient manning levels on board ships.

Moreover, the anxiety of the consequences that may follow after failing inspections and creating problems for shipping companies outweighs the obligation to genuinely comply with international regulations. Employment insecurity accompanied by financial incentives contributes to an environment where adjustment instead of accuracy is the logical outcome. For seafarers, the sole objective of recording hours is to confirm compliance and avoid disruptions to the schedule.

The report notes that “they are trapped in cognitive dissonance, where deviance is normalized.” Many companies appear disinterested in seafarers feedback on this issue and flag State surveys are limited to reviewing paperwork with no verification of the reality of work on board. Inevitably the effectiveness of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code must be questioned.

Concerning enforcement mechanisms stablished through port State control, inspectors recognized that they rarely checked the accuracy of the records which are taken on face value. While the system of regulation relies on port State control for enforcement, incentives to accommodate are given priority rather than questioning the veracity of records.

The authors of ‘A culture of adjustment’ propose three significant areas for urgent attention:

  1. The need for collaboration on a research-based model for determining safe manning for all operational conditions.
  2. A review of the effectiveness of the ISM code.
  3. Consider the ‘chronic mistrust between shore and ship personnel combined with the job insecurity characteristic of numerous seafarers’ working contracts’.

The report highlights that

It seems that all stakeholders are aware of the problems but lack the authority or willingness to address the root causes.

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A culture of adjustment evaluating the implementation of the current maritime regulatory framework on rest and work hours

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