But regards to masters authority, I’m not refering to the master’s authority over the crew but with the captains ability to control the operational situation.[/QUOTE]
Ah, yes of course I see what you are getting at now. Perhaps then the last comment in my post was germane after all. I have thought about this often too. Of course the reality of the master’s authority has changed over time. And with his all of ours too.
While it is too easy to blame the first tier of knuckleheaded sand crabs in the office, I suspect the truth lies deeper down (or higher up if you please).
I keep thinking this business changed for the worse when the nature of ship owning changed. My working theory is a ship owner used to be an individual or family run entity or a tightly held public company something with people in the highest levels of running the show that had some strong significant ties to what they were doing including intimate knowledge of ship operations (above and beyond ship “management”). That at some level they were genuinely interested in operating a shipping company, perhaps even enjoyed it. Make a profit sure but that was only one component of their motivation. (When something went wrong management might ask: “what are we doing wrong”).
When direct management changed from technically knowledgeable folks to (for lack of a better generalization) MBA’s and motivation shifted from doing it better and achievement to stock price the path to present conditions was set. (When something went wrong management might ask/say: “this would be a good business if not for those idiots on the ship, why can’t they do this right?, why didn’t they tell us that crack was a problem?, why didn’t they tell us they can’t retain good seamen?”)
Couple to this IMO and the more active role in ship management rules they decided to take - one part ISO quality standards, one part “good” ideas of multi-nation regulatory personnel, shake, pour over the maritime world. (When something goes wrong they say “why didn’t they document x, y, z while we had them trying to to their jobs while trying to conform to all the procedures we published in an almost incoherent format? Quick jump to a conclusion and issue a new procedure with new forms immediately!”)
Once you had an executive management team occupied only with shareholder value (or more precisely, what financial industry thinks is value) its not a far trip to do more with less, some incidents, some poor press and bingo, shareholder pressure from a different direction. Some time later expect to get a ISM code and the requirement for a safety management system including a DPA, internal audits, external audits, PSC inspections.
I think it is worthy to note that if you were doing it right from the beginning you probably already had a management system and procedures and forms and reports. You just didn’t call it a SMS. Now don’t go thinking I am against reducing incidents, injuries, harm to the environment, etc. I just remember actively trying to achieve those goals as a ships officer and port engineer before the ISM code. Authority and accountability seemed clear enough then.
Pick your cliche, knee-jerk reactions, pendulums swinging. A sequence of maritime incidents at a point in history when news media and public opinion and elected officials can spin each other up to act whether ill considered or not (do something, anything) and you’ve got yourself a new way of doing things. I just have to wonder if this was the best thing to do about it. It’s not that a SMS is inherently bad but as we look at what has been implemented at our companies can we say this is a better way of doing it or incrementally worse? Is it reasonable to expect a system of policies, a procedure manual, a system for collecting and correcting non-conformities can change the attitudes and motivations of the owners? After all were’t there polices and procedures, incident reports, analysis, corrective actions before?
Perhaps it was inevitable. There have always been irresponsible ship owners. Many times others (crew, passengers, general public, environment) pay for their mistakes. That is tragic and probably even criminal in some cases. Those owners should get what they deserve (but rarely do). To the extent ISM would hold this new class of owners responsible for their decisions it is a good thing. But I have to ask, has the ISM code and PSC enforcement driven any unscrupulous owners out of the business? Has any DPA been punished for not advancing a crew concern to upper management. Has any upper management tried to use the DPA as a buffer to avoid being held accountable?
And to your original point, has the ISM code had any unintended consequences? Such as the perception (reality) that the master’s (crew’s) authority is devolving in this management environment that has evolved in the wake of ISM. Has any crew member experienced a negative response to bringing a concern to the DPA?
Has the nature of ship owners changed because of all this? Have they all of sudden realized that making any profit at all depends on the safe and efficient operation of their ships by a crew and shore staff that actually care about what they are doing and that might have professional attitudes about their jobs? Or has ISM been poorly implemented and led to way of doing things just viewed (by ship owners) as just another hurdle (mandatory cost) to jump over on the way of squeezing more out of less? I would say no, their nature has not changed at least not in any positive way.
Disclaimer: Yes I know the above is full of generalizations and I know all ship owners are not the same, yes I know some may still even be of the older ilk where they actually would recognize a ship if they saw one, that they remain dedicated to their business, possibly a family or industry heritage and resist performance art for shareholders and still manage a fair profit.