The future of Marine Compliance and How to get aboard.

Compliance, in general, means conforming to a rule. 

In a marine setting, this usually means state, federal and/or flag organisations that specify a policy, standard or law. Organisations that define these laws and/or standards can change from country to country, but generally, under the IMO, standards are common across all member countries.

“Maintaining compliance across a broad range of vessels can be challenging. “

I remember simpler times, when safety and technology were not as developed and where, before the internet, a late certificate could easily be dismissed as “lost in the mail”.

Now, due to the growing number of regulations and a need for greater operational transparency, compliance has acquired a prominent role within organisations. Being compliant sounds simple enough. However, maintaining a compliance program within an organisation carries a large scope, bringing with it many daily challenges. 

Regulations, Performance-based Plans, Insurance, Certification, Maintenance, Critical Systems… This is only scratching the surface of what Marine Compliance covers, with each as important as the last.

There is a solution! 

Depending on the size of your business, you will have different requirements and needs. Either way, there are options available to help. 

The question is – 

Do we really need to make changes to the way we manage our systems to pass audits and meet regulatory standards?

Anyone that has been in the industry a while will recall stepping into a marine manager’s office and seeing an oversized spreadsheet on the wall – tracking hundreds of these points. If you worked as a marine manager, you could probably relate to the stress that the wall-of-pain could bring when something was inevitably missed.

Larger companies generally have a compliance officer, dedicated to this one task alone. But how do medium and small marine companies find the time to manage this?  

Unfortunately, some who avoid the issue of compliance end up finding out just how comprehensive the regulations are during hearings, investigations and litigation following accidents.

These ways are fast becoming redundant.

Tracking via paper or spreadsheets has become redundant. Trying to show a compliance auditor pages of spreadsheets usually results in a raise of their eyebrow as they try to interpret your lines and squiggles, punctuated with dates and corrections. 

You want an auditor on your side, and using these dated management techniques is the quickest way to make sure they are not. 

What can you do to appease regulators and better your business?

It has become expected that marine companies have already upgraded to Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) which not only track regulatory information but also alert you to when they are due. 

Want to score bonus points? By choosing to have a cloud-based system, all data is backed up in case of system disturbances. 

If you are a smaller to medium sized business, these systems benefit you by allowing for simplified tracking and compliance maintenance without the need for hiring dedicated staff to fill this role. 

How to choose a CMMS that meets your requirements, needs and budget?

There is a wide range of options when it comes to choosing a CMMS that suits your marine business needs. However, while researching your options, it quickly becomes apparent they are all different and offer varying results.

Below are our top 5 considerations when looking to install a CMMS:

  1. Marine Focused – Seems obvious right? However, I constantly see companies get this wrong. They choose a CMMS that has runs on the board, is well established, has a strong history of support and is moderately priced. Yet, does not cater to marine requirements as they are usually focused on fleets such as trucking, mining operations or freight. The logistical differences between these operations and marine requirements are staggering. For a marine company, marine focused CMM systems are a priority. Unfortunately, this error is only usually discovered when implementing data and the purchase has already been made.
  2. Flexibility – Another common mistake I come across is companies trying to save a dollar by opting for a cheap CMMS. Cheaper products have usually sacrificed flexibility and customisation. When reviewing your choices in CMMS, make sure you compare features and their flexibility, not just the price. 
  3. Support – Companies that offer quality CMM systems will have a strong support network available for their customers. They will also listen to feedback, implement regular updates and continuously make upgrades at no additional cost to their consumers. Cheaper options will usually pass over these features while continuously ramping up prices as they implement updates, making the original cost baseless in the long run. When looking at a potential CMMS for your own company, review their support system for it – do they have localised support to your region? Feedback channel?  What do their updates and extra features cost when implemented?
  4. Learning – The strongest CMM systems available generally offer free and extensive documentation on how to use them. Plus, typically provide live training and may even offer certification. Displaying proficiency in using these systems could be a strong resume feature or a great unique selling point for your organisation. Cheaper CMMS will place documentation behind paywalls, if they have any at all, forcing you to spend more even if your business isn’t growing.  
  5. Value – The above three points (flexibility, support, learning) directly affect the value of available Fleet Management software. The benefit of these cheaper options is they offer an entry level into Fleet management software, but usually at the expense of one of, or all three areas of software Flexibility, Company Support and learning availability. These restrictions in the software will eventually restrict a company’s growth but are great starting points for fleet management.

It all comes down to what your organisation’s specific needs are and considering your short and long-term goals. Discussing this with someone you know has been through the process can help. Alternatively, any of us here at Tiller Technical are happy to offer advice. 

Either way, when reviewing options for a computerised tracking and compliance management system, remember to consider if the software is –

  1. Marine focused
  2. Flexible
  3. Offering Support
  4. Provides Learning  
  5. Value for money spent 

These top 5 considerations are paramount to the successful implementation of any Fleet management software within a company. 

By reviewing these areas, companies will not only make a choice most in line with their needs but also understand restrictions that may be present in their selection, especially if their decision is led by value alone

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