Transforming Maritime Safety Culture to Save Lives

By Mahima Chawla | November 6th, 2023

What is a maritime safety culture?

How do you define a maritime safety culture?

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s ISM Code is a start, providing global advice for the safe operation of ships and prevention of pollution. It provides the methods to establish a culture of safe operation.

But shipping companies need more than just the right rules. They need their organisation to have the right attitude, from top to bottom.

The key to improving safety is embedding a disciplined culture of best safety practice and improvement right throughout your shipping company, led and championed from the top and reaching even the most junior employees.

Key elements of a successful maritime safety culture include:

  • Transparency and communication.
  • Proactive action.
  • Effective prioritisation.

“Safety culture is the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety in the workplace,” notes Steve Clinch, chief inspector of marine accidents for the UK government’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB). “Everything to do with shipping has to have an element of safety culture.”

Building an effective maritime safety culture

The stakes are high. With the human, economic and environmental cost of marine catastrophes growing every year, it is critical you make resources available for building a better maritime safety culture within your organisation.

The greater consequences also mean people care more about getting it right. They want to stay safe. They are ready to hear and embrace the opportunity to be safer at sea.

The opportunity to build a better maritime safety culture, based on effective information and analysis, has been brought about by the ‘big data’ boom. You now have data recorded automatically through technology for all aspects of your fleet, creating a great opportunity to make the right decisions to improve safety.

But there are 2 considerable challenges:

1. How do you sift through this vast amount of data?

2. How do you find the key points that explain how to improve your safety?

Your crew and safety managers are already incredibly busy and cannot do this alone. Without this data and analysis, the keys to practical improvements to your maritime safety culture remain hidden. And without these insights, you cannot bring your employees on the journey to embracing a safer culture.

But don’t worry. Because HiLo can help.

Maritime safety culture across your fleet

HiLo’s whole-fleet view makes it much easier to embed an effective maritime safety culture, and therefore make a difference by implementing safety improvements.

Using world-leading, peer-reviewed analysis, we can:

  • See where your current safety issues are.
  • Predict future risks.
  • Explain in easy steps how to solve current issues.

This guidance helps your crew think further ahead, and plan more effectively. Their safety awareness and ability will increase, and they can feel more confident to meet any challenges.

Using maritime safety culture for better, data-driven decisions

The biggest change in culture is how people think. This is always based on the information they have available.

Once crew naturally ‘think’ in the right way about a maritime safety culture, it becomes easier to act according to that culture.

By thinking about the way that they take safety actions, and ensuring those actions are improved day by day, your crew will make themselves safer. The more effective the resulting safety performance, the easier it is to continue to show the value of a maritime safety culture to key stakeholders. The more buy-in you can get from these stakeholders, the better your safety culture will be.

Where previously crew members might have relied purely on their own, or others’, subjective experience to decide how to make decisions, now they can make fully informed, data-driven decisions based on our objective, factual evidence and analysis.

Decisions driven by fully accurate data will always have a better chance of being correct. They reflect reality rather than relying on opinion. You have concrete evidence of:

  • What is wrong on your vessels.
  • How to solve these issues.

Using fully accurate data-driven decisions not only keeps crew safer, but also makes them more confident in their actions and decisions.

Your staff can work more effectively, with less stress and worry, to drive your shipping organisation to success.

Your crew now have the knowledge and confidence to make the right decisions. The more correct choices you make, the more your safety record will improve. In doing so your maritime safety culture will become more embedded, recognised and respected within your organisation and beyond. It is a virtuous circle of success. You will see the impact of changing your safety culture for the better.

Empower your crew to encourage a better maritime safety culture

The key to creating and sustaining a maritime safety culture throughout your organisation is keeping employees committed to that culture. The best way to keep that staff commitment is to empower your employees.

You can best empower your seafarers by giving them knowledge of the positive impact they can offer. They become champions of this maritime safety culture by seeing the difference it makes at sea. The more confident and involved they feel, the more your crew will embrace the culture themselves. This includes making small improvements in day-to-day actions that will improve their safety.

More than that – your crew become ambassadors keen to spread a better maritime safety culture further afield. By championing the culture, your seafarers will also encourage others in your organisation – and beyond – to embrace maritime safety culture and make the seas safer for everyone.

The benefits of a proactive maritime safety culture

One key aspect of effective maritime safety is ensuring that safety actions are always carried out exactly as they should be. This is not just when there is a known imminent disaster to be prevented, but at all times. This successfully minimises risks.

An effective maritime safety culture assists this thorough approach to safety, by showing your crew the effect of all their actions. By demonstrating through ‘leading indicators’ that even small incorrect actions can have a big impact, you can encourage the correct behaviour.

The positive effect of a maritime safety culture

Our customers have seen a huge safety improvement since they started using HiLo.

Overall, each customer saved an average of $2.75 in 2021-22 by avoiding incidents.

More specifically, a Hilo customer company which ran an extensive safety campaign and procedural review on launch and recovery failure of manned boats. The results were excellent:

  • Their risk for this reduced from being ranked 2nd highest to 20th highest.
  • They achieved this in just 12 months.

Transform your maritime safety culture today

Through our world-leading, peer-reviewed data analysis and recommendations, HiLo can transform your maritime safety culture. We achieve this by providing the knowledge to help your crew keep themselves safer.

Try us out today.