CHIRP Maritime: “Our Reports Have Not Been Sanitized”

Captain Jeff Parfitt
Captain Jeff Parfitt

Published Dec 25, 2019 3:52 PM by Jeff Parfitt

As we close on the end of another year CHIRP Maritime pauses to reflect upon the last 12 months and to look ahead to the future. During 2019 we reported on bulk cargo liquefaction and willful ship pollution. We looked at the cruise vessel disabled passenger debate as well as criminalization of the seafarer. We highlighted the lack of PPE specifically designed for women at sea and the misuse of mobile phones whilst navigating vessels. As always, we covered the hardy perennials of enclosed spaces and the rigging of pilot ladders. In our last FEEDBACK we focused on the tug and towing industry and the difficulties and safety issues experienced by the tug and vessel crews.

So what has changed? Well not much really, and CHIRP Maritime will not be shutting up shop just yet. In fact, over the last two years, CHIRP Maritime has seen a 100 percent increase in qualitative reports received. Further, the nature and content of many of the reports have become most serious and more frequent as our reputation for trust and confidentiality is increasingly recognized amongst those whom we seek to serve – the global mariner.

We have received reports from seafarers enslaved on vessels of dubious flag operating in areas where state control is essentially non-existent, of deliberate and willful pollution, of masters operating under duress. Often, reports of a welfare nature are passed to our partners at ISWAN or the ITF whilst we focus on safety related matters where there is frequently a fine line separating the two.

With our global visibility expanding and with it our reports increasing, our secondary function of propagating the safety message has continued to develop. Increasingly, we are becoming involved with academic research with a view to disseminating the final paper so it can gain focus from the global maritime community. 

We believe our flag ship publication Annual Digest 2019 (to be published in February 2020) will be our best to date, and we plan a considerable increase in hard copy distribution. It will contain all of 2019’s insight articles as well as our acclaimed “Critical Decision Making” paper written in collaboration with University College London. 

This year has seen a media refresh with an updated logo, a new FEEDBACK template and a promotional video.

We shall also update our website to make it more contemporary and user friendly as we consolidate our position as the world’s foremost maritime reporting program.

That brings us to the question of what sets us apart from the other reporting programs and why are we increasingly successful? Our answers are simple. Firstly, and most importantly, we represent the mariner. We receive reports directly from the reporter. We establish the credibility of the reporter to ensure there is no false reporting or malicious intent, and we encourage the use of the reporter’s internal SMS procedure with their company before engaging with us. 

Okay, so what? You may well ask. The difference is, our reports have not been sanitized by internal company reporting systems where the due process is assessed and causal analysis apportioned more often in favor of the company. This is important. Our reports are discussed by a panel of 28 independent experts who give objective guidance and advice, not always in favor of the reporter.

During August, CHIRP Maritime published an insight article by Dr. Tim Carter (the former Chief Medical Adviser to the UK MCA) “Missing the hits.” The thrust of the article was “Where is the data on incidents, injuries and major disasters?” Dr. Carter states “One of the biggest gaps has been the lack of any clear information on the population at risk: how many seafarers, in what jobs? How much of their year was spent at sea? Knowing how many people are at risk is key to any attempt to look at the level of risk to any individual and to assess the relative importance of any harmful event.” 

In his summing up, Carter goes on to say, “Internationally, the position on access to data on incidents and deaths is even worse. A recent follow-up study by the Seafarer’s International Research Centre in Cardiff has shown how few maritime authorities have consistent information over a number of years on fatalities among seafarers. With international crewing and diverse flagging the norm, searching for information on harm, let alone relating it to the population of seafarers at risk becomes almost impossible. What I originally suggested was a national conspiracy to hide information on risks to seafarers has now taken on global dimensions.”

The main issue from our perspective remains impartiality. If a reporting scheme is dependent upon data from shipping companies, it will always be flawed. Because there is no uniform reporting system; there is no constant with which to assess an incident, and by the time it’s been through the internal SMS process the data has been sufficiently sanitized so that the company is rarely to blame - it’s nearly always human error on the ship. Whereas human error is only the beginning, the true root cause of the problem lies much deeper for instance: communications, design, company organization and safety culture.

Therefore, confidential reporting to an autonomous body (such as CHIRP Maritime) with no external interest is the only way to establish the root cause.

Looking ahead to next year, CHIRP Maritime will be involved in several areas of focus including improving safety in the fishing industry. We are also supporting the recent announcement of a major study by Southampton University into bulk liquefaction “Solid Bulk Cargo Liquefaction – Strategies for Effective Control” (funded by Lloyds Register Foundation) and look forward to their paper. The WMU are conducting a study into Hours of Rest (funded by the ITF) with which we are participating. 

CHIRP Maritime continues to grow in global visibility, and our impact can be measured in tangible results. We regularly engage with global ship operators who respond in a positive direction. We produce our quarterly FEEDBACK in Portuguese, Chinese, English and Filipino with distribution now measured in the 100,000s, and we maintain an online, freely available library of incident reports from the major flag states. We continue to receive support from individual flag states and IMO members and the requests upon our services is constrained only by time and budget.

As we move in to 2020, CHIRP Maritime is confident that we are making a difference as we continue to receive increasing acknowledgment from those who share a common objective. We will continue to reach out across the globe and challenge those who need to be challenged. 

We wish seafarers everywhere a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Safe New Year.

CHIRP Maritime is the Voice of the Mariner

Jeff Parfitt is Director of CHIRP Maritime.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.