Facing the wake

Capt. Ole Rødtnes on the burden of administration following a three-year project: “It’s all part of the job.”

 

SELANDIA SWAN is one in a fleet of about 20 tankers owned or operated by UNI- TANKERS A/S. SELANDIA SWAN is 18,000 GT and normally carries a crew of 16, including seven officers. For three years, the ship has provided the backdrop for a project being run together with UNI-TANKERS and the Danish Maritime Authority to try and tackle the concept of ‘administrative burdens’ in more detail. What are the burdens? Where do they come from? Are they the reason for mental wear and tear? What can be done to reduce the burdens and thus prevent attritional routines?

 

These are some of the questions that a 3-year project

– “Mental attrition in officers on Danish vessels as a result of external requirements” – has tried to address.

The overall conclusion is that a small step has been taken towards cutting the range of tasks that can be characterized as administrative burdens but this is an issue that requires more work.

 

Capt. Ole Rødtnes, SELANDIA SWAN, took part in the project. He feels that the greatest benefit of the project is that it has focused on the administrative burdens.

 

“Not much will probably happen in my time so now it is  all about maintaining the focus on administration and how we can do it better because the challenge is far from solved yet,” admits the 56 year-old captain.

 

Part of the job

Personally, he recognizes that the project has helped change his approach to administrative work. “I am still irritated about the overall volume of administration and the time I sit with my back to navigation, but I have recognized that administration is part of the job. If you want to be a captain and officer, you have to put up with it because changing the rules that the modern shipping industry operates under is seriously difficult. There are international requirements, and requirements from ports, agencies, shipowners and national requirements and especially customer requirements. And with the rules and requirements comes administration and documentation,” he points out.

 

 

Barriers

In addition to the requirements above, there are also pronounced barriers amongst seafarers.

 

“When we were encouraged to take part in the project we said okay, but among ourselves we were not very confident that anything would come of it. We know perfectly well what the problems are. It is almost impossible to do anything about the vettings required by customers. Dealing with national and local reporting requirements is also complicated and especially the requirement for different data that has to be reported to the port authorities and loading/discharging terminals makes administration disproportionately heavy.

 

And nor is the Danish Maritime Authority slow to issue new demands. So it was difficult to maintain our enthusiasm during the project, especially due to rotation of the original crew.”

 

Safety on board

One part of the project has been to see how external requirements relate to safety on board the ship since many of the administrative burdens deal with safety procedures that have to be complied with for the safety of the crew, ship and the environment. Firefighting and safety drills are activities that officers find least irritating and which bother them the least. This may be because the regard these routines as necessary and clearly relate them to the safety of the ship and crew. It was clear from the debate at an officers’ seminar that firefighting and safety drills are regarded as meaningful and essential, regardless of the administrative scope of the drills. This confirms the fact that it is not necessarily the scope of administrative tasks that are regarded as a burden but rather their relevance for individuals.