Captain Christer Lindvall, President of the International Federation of Shipmasters’ Associations (IFSMA) and Senior Advisor, Swedish Maritime Officers joined us to discuss IFSMA’s work, objectives and policies.
With over 50 years’ experience in the maritime industry, Captain Lindvall provided an overview of the issues that impact today’s shipmaster and highlighted the need for international cooperation in advancing the interests of shipmasters.
Who does IFSMA represent and why?
IFSMA represents some 15000 shipmasters from 65 countries worldwide in a professional, non-political independent federation of National Associations and Individual shipmasters. There is no other organization within the international forums that specifically represents and raises the voice of the shipmasters i.e. as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) in UN, IMO, ILO and EU. There are other NGOs organizations for ship-owners, class, insurance, seafarers, aids to navigation, pilots and maritime academies – but not specifically representing the shipmasters.
Shipmasters have specific roles and responsibilities in respect to international instruments and national legislations. In my mind, it is important to represent shipmasters at international forums in order:
1. To improve the health, working environment, safety and security for us as well as for our passengers
2. To improve the competitiveness for us as officers and for the serious ship-owners
3. To improve our image as ship officers and as proud representatives of serious bona-fide flag states, serious ship-owners and competent colleagues and the entire shipping industry in the eyes of the general public.
What are some of the working groups IFSMA participates in?
ISFMA participates in IMO Committees and Sub Committees which usually set up three working groups per session. We also participate in intercessional meetings, round table discussions and correspondence groups. Outside IMO, we participate and chair conferences and also conduct focus days and working groups in connection with conferences such as, the Manning & Training conference in Manila and the upcoming Master Mariners Congress in Melbourne.
We usually participate in meetings that focus on issues that impact shipmasters, which means mainly of an operational nature but now includes goal based concepts and construction. Human elements and safety issues in general are key concerns and of special interest to us is the impact on shipmasters of the increasing workload, paper exercise, work and rest hours, manning and fatigue, especially on small ships. Also of interest is the implication of criminalization, piracy, the ISPS-Code visas and the right to shore leave while the ship is in port. Other issues of importance are mass evacuation from passenger ships, Life Saving Appliances (LSA) including lifeboats and recovery of persons from the sea. We are also involved in the EU project ‘Mona Lisa’ which will be featured at the Melbourne congress and this is just to mention some of the subjects IFSMA is involved in!
Given that most working group provisions come down to a national level, why does IFSMA deal with safety and shipping matters in a wider international context?
Unfortunately, practically all international instruments have to be adopted and implemented into national laws and regulations to fulfill the international minimum standards. This doesn’t allow much room to make any changes. Sometimes they include a provision: “up to the satisfaction of the Administration”, which gives some possibilities to other interpretations or equivalence. At a national level however, it is usually too late to try to make any changes and this work must be left to the national associations which are hopefully in line with the IFSMA policy and objectives.
It is also very important to us that all member governments have the same minimum standards so that the shipping industry can participate on “a level playing field”. For instance, IFSMA participated in the development and merger of the new ILO Maritime Labor Convention 2006 which will enter into force in August 20 this year.
We are told that there is a shortage of skilled seafarers but at the same time there are claims of declining competencies of seafarers. Has STCW really addressed the issues of crew competencies and what can the industry do to raise its level of professionalism?
There is a growing shortage of skilled seafarers, officers, and an increasing waste by officers leaving the industry before retirement, because of issues such as the threats of criminalization, piracy and denial to go ashore while in port. There is still a need for high quality seafarers to man the ships of today and tomorrow, while the demands of the shore side infrastructure for younger replacements to the elderly retirees remain ever present. Results from the shipping company survey indicate problems with the supply of particular grades of seafarer, such as senior officers and engineers in some labor markets. There is also some evidence of continuing recruitment and retention problems, especially in certain segments of the industry such as tankers and offshore support vessels.
In my mind the requirements in the STCW and the obligation for the member states to report back to IMO is how they fulfil the provisions in order to stay on the “white list”. Today there are some problems according to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) with the education and training of the Filipino Officers especially at management level.
With the introduction of e-Nav and new technology how does the modern master mariner manage this change and what can the profession do to ensure that the end user, the mariner, has appropriate input?
First of all we must accept new technology but also look into what impact it has on the people on-board. Shall the master only monitor the navigating and operation of the ship or should he be the one operating? Where will the responsibility lie and who will make the final decision? We must also remember that the master will still be on-board and have the full responsibility to himself, the ship and his crew.
The discussion of e-navigation will also be debated thoroughly after we have received the final report from the Costa Concordia. There are already discussions at IMO about voyage planning and deviations not caused by safety of the ship.
We were fortunate to have had Capt. Rodger MacDonald discuss the fair treatment of seafarers at the inaugural Company of Master Mariners of Australia congress in 2011. Since then, how has IFSMA’s Master Mariner Protect scheme developed?
Fair treatment is a never ending story. But we must remember only casualties caused by maritime accidents are covered by the IMO resolution. Regarding the IFSMA Master Mariner Protect scheme, unfortunately I must say it was not successful. I think many captains believe ‘it will never happen to me and why should I pay for this risk’.
What other support organizations are available for seafarers and shipmasters?
With the increasing abandonment of seafarers, criminalization cases, ISPS code and piracy there is more and more cooperation between international NGOs and support organizations.
There are some new welfare and support organizations which have been established in connection with the increased criminalization of seafarers and seafarers who have been attacked or been held hostage by pirates, including organizations such as “Save our Seafarers”, “Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response”, “Seafarers’ Rights International” and the “Seamen’s Church Institute”.
100 years after the Titanic, we had the Costa Concordia accident last year which captured the media’s attention and imagination for quite some time. What do such incidents highlight for you?
As we are still waiting for the final report from Italy, IMO has only looked into some operational matters, urging the relevant ship-owners on issues such as: mustering of passengers when embarking, lifeboat drills, internal communications, listing the nationality of passengers, voyage planning and limiting visitors to the bridge at sea. To us it is very important to look at operational issues while also in this case, looking at issues such as construction, watertight sections and damage stability.
The IMO theme for this year’s World Maritime Day is “Sustainable development”. What goals does this present for industry?
IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu has launched this year’s World Maritime Day theme, “Sustainable development: IMO:s contribution beyond Rio + 20”, calling on Governments and the entire shipping industry to join together and provide a positive contribution towards formulating sustainable maritime development goals.
Mr. Sekimizu said that, as the United Nations’ international regulatory body for shipping, IMO has been, and continues to be, the focal point for, and the driving force behind, efforts to ensure that the industry becomes greener and cleaner. He was confident that, through this initiative – it will be something in which IMO, the shipping industry and all other stakeholders that are keen to turn the concept of sustainability into a tangible reality, will be able to join together and make a very positive contribution.
In connection with the next IMO MSC in June the SG has invited Member Governments, IGOs and NGOs to a Conference to submit papers and discuss how we can improve the safety on all types of ships. IFSMA intends to submit such a paper.
IFSMA is holding its 39th AGA in Melbourne this April alongside the Company of Master Mariners of Australia’s biennial congress. What do you hope delegates will take away from this experience?
We must get more and more of our member associations to participate in the work within IMO. In that way they can see and hopefully understand the importance and the need for IFSMA’s participation and the support we can give to IMO. This is really appreciated by IMO and can be noticed, as the IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu accepted an honorary membership of IFSMA in December last year.
Captain Christer Lindvall will deliver a presentation on the work, objectives and policies of IFSMA as part of the ISFMA AGA on the 16-17 April 2013. He will also attend the Company of Master Mariners of Australia congress in Melbourne this April.