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Seafarers frustrated with excessive administrative paperwork, demanding change


High volumes of unnecessary administrative burden seafarers

The latest Seafarers Happiness Index’s special COVID-19 edition findings revealed crew is less than pleased with the overwhelming paperwork. They pointed out each new set of regulations comes with a bulk of administrative tasks and is deemed an administrative burden.

Unwelcomed load of paperwork
The Danish Maritime Authority conducted a comprehensive study with support from InterManager, an international trade association for ship and crew managers. In their survey involving international seafarers, a third expressed they are either annoyed or frustrated by administrative burdens. Presumed as redundant repetition of paperwork, seafarers expressed it is more efficient to invest the time in more fruitful tasks.

The study surveyed almost 2,000 anonymous seafarers from 59 countries, and asked 55 questions to understand the burden and the different types of work-related activities perceived as such among seafarers. The survey concentrated on the following areas:

1) Preparation of and participation in Port State Control, Flag State Control, or Class inspections;

2) Vetting inspections; handling of International Vessel and Port Facility Security requirements (including paperwork and mandatory deck watch duties);

3) Planning and executing exercises and drills; using and maintaining internal management systems (QSM, ISM and the like);

4) Completion of port and pre-arrival documents (such as crew and passenger lists, vessel stores, port calls, health declarations etc), journals (garbage, oil, deviation and related)

At least 50 per cent of respondents felt the ceaseless tasks were tedious. The report concluded high volume of paperwork and documentation produced on the job contributes little value. Port and pre-arrival documentation proved particularly problematic with many seafarers feeling a lot of the paperwork was superfluous. These are significant distractions for seafarers concentrating on pertinent tasks and even compromising ship safety.

Call for reduced paperwork
Seafarers want the paperwork reduced, lessened rigid control, and preferred to focus on culture and competence to improve efficiency and safety onboard. The Danish report calls for developing an intelligent, easy-to-use digital approach to reduce paperwork and time-consuming manual workflows. This is particularly important about port and pre-arrival procedures. The report also recommended a revived focus on seamanship and safety culture, intending to reduce the number of procedures and burdens. Paperwork does not ensure seafarers’ safety.

Even the most bureaucratic companies and administrations are noticing the advantages of reduced paperwork. The excessive paperwork has also caught the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) attention and expressed its support to the cause. Unfortunately, paperwork is also strongly advocated by companies who prefer to document happenings at sea – to avoid potential arbitration. The IMO announced various plans to reduce the unnecessary paperwork. The first step is to review the administrative requirements in IMO instruments, including obsolete or unnecessary processes. Former IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu agreed with the excessive paperwork observation. He rallied the industry’s participation in the consultation to facilitate effective identifying the areas which need changes.



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