Part 5: Effectiveness of consultation

Maritime Safety Authority: Progress in implementing recommendations of the Review of Safe Ship Management Systems.

In this Part, we discuss the effectiveness of consultation about the proposed changes with 2 key stakeholder groups affected by the changes to Safe Ship Management and Safe Operational Plans as a result of the SSM Review recommendations:

  • Safe Ship Management companies (SSM companies) which, before implementation of the recommendations, provided all operational Safe Ship Management services to Safe Ship Management vessel owners and operators under powers delegated by the Director. The companies ensured that operators documented all safety procedures, ensured that all crew were trained in those procedures, regularly audited compliance with the procedures, and issued Safe Ship Management Certificates to vessels that complied; and
  • owners and operators covered by both Safe Ship Management and Safe Operational Plans.

We expected that key stakeholders would be informed of, and would have the opportunity to comment on, the proposed changes, and that those comments would be considered by the MSA Board before final decisions were made.

Consultation with Safe Ship Management companies

Part 6 discusses how the SSM companies are significantly affected by the changes, a major change being introduction of the Code of Practice.

The companies will now have to comply with national standards and performance indicators. They will also lose some revenue through losing a part of their former work (e.g., under the Code of Practice, initial audits of ship owners and operators are now undertaken directly by the MSA – see paragraph 6.12). Moreover, they operate under the sanction that, if they do not comply with the Code of Practice by August 2005, they may lose the Director’s approval to operate in the Safe Ship Management business.

The MSA undertook the following consultation with SSM companies;

  • June 2003 – SSM companies received a 35-page discussion document examining each recommendation of the SSM Review, and inviting comment on ways to implement the recommendations.
  • September 2003 – SSM companies were able to discuss with the MSA the draft copy of the Code of Practice (see paragraphs 6.3 to 6.14).
  • December 2003 – SSM companies received a revised draft Code of Practice, for final comment.
  • March 2004 – SSM companies and the MSA met and reached final agreement on the draft SSM Code of Practice.
  • April 2004 to June 2004 – SSM companies’ views and final agreement were solicited for the amendments to Maritime Rule Part 21 that will make the above changes legally binding.
  • Between July 2004 and February 2005 and ongoing until June 2005 – The MSA talked and continues to talk with SSM companies about their level of compliance with the Code of Practice, to enable the Director to assess their suitability to continue with SSM activity after August 2005.

Our findings

The amount of consultation the MSA undertook with SSM companies was significant. Moreover, through the consultation period we believe that the MSA explained to owners and operators why the proposed changes were needed and how they would benefit the maritime industry.

Consultation with owners and operators

The MSA also organised a nationwide series of 18 safety awareness seminars targeting all owners and operators of small specialist commercial vessels. The aim of the seminars was to inform as many as possible of the 3900 small-vessel owners and operators about the proposed changes. Topics covered were:

  • · the Safe Ship Management manual;
  • the new Code of Practice;
  • owner and skipper responsibility; and
  • health and safety in employment.

However, we note that attendance at these seminars was particularly poor with only about 1% of the target group attending.

MSA staff members were so concerned about the low attendance after the first few seminars that a renewed effort was made to contact small-vessel owners and operators to encourage them to attend. This included writing to each owner, as well as requesting MSA safety inspectors to “spread the word”. These measures produced some localised improvement in the Auckland region, but when the seminars ended, average participation still stood at only 1%.

In response to the low turnout, the MSA has established an industry communications group to provide advice and assistance to the MSA on how to improve communication with owners and operators of small vessels.

Our findings

Notwithstanding the best endeavours of the MSA in promoting these seminars, the series failed to achieve the primary objective of large-scale participation and information sharing with small-vessel owners and operators, and there was very limited participation. We believe the establishment of the industry communications group to provide advice and assistance on how the MSA could improve communications is a useful initiative.

Recommendation 1
We recommend that Maritime New Zealand adopt an approach of continuous improvement in respect of its communication with owners and operators of small specialist commercial vessels.

Other issues raised by owners and operators

Two other issues arose during our audit. We spoke with several experienced owners and operators who were dissatisfied at not being given a final opportunity to comment on proposed changes with which they disagreed, before the changes were finalised. They were also dissatisfied with the lack of MSA feedback on their written submissions, given the significant time and effort they put into preparing them.

Our findings

The issue of lack of feedback from the MSA is important. At the outset of the process, the MSA placed a great deal of importance on consultation with the maritime industry. Generally, we consider that the MSA undertook effective consultation. However, it is good practice to provide feedback to stakeholders who make submissions when invited to do so. We would have expected the MSA to provide feedback to those who had taken the time to make written submissions.

The feedback could have been specific to the person or organisation making the submission or, if this was too burdensome, general feedback could have been given on the outcome of the consultation.

We note, however, that resources available to the MSA at that time were limited, and this may have impacted affected its ability to provide such feedback.

Recommendation 2
We recommend that, when Maritime New Zealand invites written submissions on proposed changes in future, it provide written specific or summarised feedback and explanations to stakeholders who make submissions.

With respect to owners and operators not having a further opportunity to comment before changes were finalised, in our view the MSA is entitled to “draw a line” and determine when consultation ends.

Maritime NZ has, subsequent to the drafting of this report, introduced policy regarding the frequency of audits and surveys, which will provide relief to safe operators, and focus attention on non-compliant operators. This is in line with the philosophy of SSM, and should eliminate or reduce these “new costs”.

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