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Koninklijke Vereniging - Société Royale

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Managing a large fleet in today’s market


Tanker operator spoke with Wallem Ship Management about managing vessels in today’s regulatory driven market.


Starting off with the EU MRV rules and the 0.5% sulfur cap putting an extra strain on third party management in terms of costs and personnel, the company said that it was too early to say what impact these regulations will have on third party shipmanagement.

“We have taken a proactive approach in preparation for the EU MRV. We have signed an agreement with a verification body and have been working hard to gather all the necessary data, so we are ready to go when we get the green light from our clients, “ Wallem said.

Regarding the 0.5% global sulfur cap, Wallem’s senior management is involved in current discussions on the topic at the various technical bodies company representatives sit on around the world. Like everyone, Wallem said it is watching and waiting to see what will happen and looking at the various options and challenges there are, including the issue of the availability of the fuel in 2020.

As for the fitting of ballast water treatment systems, the owner clients have to do what makes the best financial sense to them (retrofit or scrap), but Wallem will be there to advise, help and support to minimise any burden to them.

More than 40 vessels within the Wallem­managed fleet already have a BWTS installed; either during the newbuilding stage or retrofitted. These are systems across the range of five different treatment technologies and by various manufacturers, so a good bit of experience has been gained already, which is being passed on to the owners. “We are continuously working with both the manufacturers and owners to ensure that these BWT systems perform as they should,” the company said.

Pre joining training at the Wallem training centres includes BWTS familiarisation courses and crew training by the manufacturers is also focused upon, both on board and ashore.

The company’s policy for vessels that have BWTS on board is that they are operated regularly in order for the crew to be familiarised with the operation and so that they are in full operational condition for when they are required to be used. “We also rotate some of our senior officers who are experienced with certain systems to enable them to share their knowledge and experience on board,” Wallem said.

If an owner decides to install a BWTS then one person focuses on ensuring that the systems on board are fully operational before handing over responsibility to the fleet superintendents. “We have found that working closely with the manufacturers and a strong emphasis on training are essential for smooth operations,” the company said.


Cyber security guidelines

As for cyber security, now part of TMSA3, Wallem has BIMCO cyber security guidelines in place on all the managed vessels. As part of preparations for the introduction of requirements around cyber security compliance next year, the company is developing a cyber security policy and a risk assessment for vessels. In addition, Wallem is continuing to focus on increased awareness and training on this topic, both at sea and ashore.

Turning to moorings, OCIMF is putting together a mooring guide. Answering the question - has mooring caused any particular problems either with mooring parties, machinery or ropes, Wallem said that an analysis of industry accidents showed that design and equipment safety played a significant role in 62% of the reported mooring incidents.

Of particular note was that 51% of the identified design and equipment safety factors were the result of a parted mooring line. Shipboard conditions, such as heavy weather, workload and crew competency, played a role in 22% of mooring incidents.
Wallem said that it had found that effective communication was critical for safe mooring especially when a number of teams/groups (eg the bridge team, ship mooring parties, tug crews, lines boats and shore gangs) are involved.

These groups are separated by distance and line of sight, while language, culture, radio communication, background noise and other factors can further complicate matters. In addition, maintenance instructions should be adjusted for ropes and for maintenance and inspection of machinery in cases where vessels have high harbour visit frequency and for those that frequently visit ports with adverse weather conditions.

Turning to tankers, Wallem has been managing large tankers, such as VLCCs, for many years and this sector has been growing steadily over the years. The company has a very high crew retention rate of around 90% for tankers, compared to around 88% of the whole fleet. That said, there is a shortage of experienced maritime professionals industry wide and more needs to be done to attract the younger generation to a career in this industry, Wallem stressed.

As for the question of shore staff, Wallem has a very strong emphasis on training and professional development, which includes supporting seafarers’ transition to roles ashore. Around 80% of the marine safety department in Wallem Ship Management are ex-seafarers (Master Mariners or Chief Engineers) from Wallem-managed vessels and many shore staff have maritime expertise in the fields of naval architecture or mechanical engineering.

Wallem said that it is able to provide crew to match shipowners and customers’ needs and have shore staff to match the crew’s nationality in offices around the world to ensure smooth and effective communication.

As for future investment in shipping giving third party shipmanagement concerns opportunities, Wallem thought that to some extent there was renewed interest by US private equity (PE) investors in shipping - especially tanker shipping.

Shipping markets across all sectors are rather soft. The asset values have also softened and are lower than the 10 year average, particularly in certain tanker sectors. This gives investors an opportunity for asset play in these sectors. The PE’s are now focusing in particular on operations and management of the assets, as they are looking at a medium term hold. It is paramount for them to have a robust management team looking after operations and management of their assets.


Easy access

Third party shipmanagement companies provide easy access to technical excellence without having to invest into experienced management teams. Wallem claimed to be ideally suited to assist the PE’s with operations and management of their assets with a unique maritime services offering across shipmanagement, commercial management, ship agency, advisory and investment solutions.

Wallem currently has eight owned training centres located around the world – in India, the Philippines, China and the Ukraine – which for the moment suits the company’s training needs. The priority remains on maintaining a high quality of service, due to having full control over the seafarers’ training via in-house programmes. For this reason, Wallem said it is not looking at using third party academies at this point in time. However, the company does visit and audit other training centres for benchmarking purposes.

Training at the Wallem centres allows its seafarers to update their skills in areas, such as navigation, engineering, bridge management and safety management. Training includes the effective use of Wallem’s own systems and processes that form the backbone of efficient and safe vessel operations.

All seagoing staff must successfully complete appropriate courses on a regular basis. The result is a team of seafarers who understand and comply with the requirements of charterers, shipowners, port authorities and all applicable international laws & regulations.

Wallem takes a blended learning approach, encompassing extensive use of real-time simulators (including the latest navigating bridge and engine room simulators) for learning purposes and to recreate incidents and accidents. Classroom-based learning is combined with e-learning, including webinars and virtual classroom learning via skype. Videos, role-play and experience sharing are also included.

Looking ahead, Wallem is planning and investing in the latest learning trends. The company has also recently started using 3D animations and is trialling some new and exciting training technology, including video gaming concept and Virtual Reality technology, aimed in particular at engaging the interest of the younger generation.

“We are committed to embracing all new technology, which can improve the efficiency and safety of operations on board and will continue to look at how we can use virtual reality technology for areas such as repair and maintenance, the company told Tanker Operator.

In addition to technical skills, training at Wallem is also designed to help seafarers build up business acumen, management and leadership skills to help in the delivery of a quality service.

Industry compliance requirements are very high and in order for a company like Wallem to be a preferred partners with the oil majors and operate to the highest standards, a great deal of background work is required. When a new vessel is taken on, an increase in headcount is needed, as far as the people who directly manage the vessels within the fleets, ie superintendents. However, due to the company’s size the existing central technical and safety department personnel can be leveraged to implement initiatives, new technologies and perform other scalable centralised functions.

A small company would have to add to its headcount in order to be able to comply with all the new regulations and oil major requirements that come into force.

Wallem manages its vessels in separate fleets and aims to have around 20-30 vessels in each fleet.

Company operating costs have not changed much thanks to the fact that crewing (at around 60% of costs) has been stable for some time. Technical costs are also relatively flat. Lube oil is due to go up but Wallem said that it had locked in some good prices for this year.

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