The UK Ship Register, a service of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, held its first Ship Owners Forum in January.
The initiative was announced at London International Shipping week and was the result of consultation with customers throughout 2019. It brought together over 20 industry leaders, with the UK Ship Register (UKSR) team and wider Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) colleagues to take a strategic look at the future of UK maritime.
MCA Charmain Michael Parker welcomed the group to the forum saying “the maritime industry is in a flux with the rate of change accelerating. We’re here to have an open and honest conversation, to get your feedback, check that we’re heading in the right direction and see how we can support you in the future.”
The group was updated on progress of the UK Ship Register’s commitments to industry which included the design of a unique flag selection model tool. The tool utilises consumer research combined with scientific based algorithms to help customers assess their commercial priorities mapped against the relative strengths of the flag.
Digital by default is advancing quickly with online registration and e-certification both in the pipeline for the first half of 2020.
The Forum was also updated on the branding of the UK Ship Register and the work being progressed to change its external look and feel, as well as its relationship with the wider MCA teams, with one attendee commenting “the UK Flag holds significant brand value when related to the protection of the assets ship owners are investing in”.
When talking about the integration of the UK Ship Register into the wider team of maritime professionals at the MCA, Director Katy Ware said “we’re working on making it loud and clear who you are talking to, we are one team, with one approach working under the Red Ensign to deliver services to our customers”.
She also updated the room on the working being progressed to make MCA surveyors more readily available, including the recruitment and training program to “bring stability to the front line for our customers.” She highlighted that there are plans in place for an international survey team, recognising that “location is prudent”.
The team also explained the longer-term strategy to develop a predictive operational risk model from the vessel survey data the MCA holds which will lead the survey team towards completing ‘intelligent surveys’ using the data to generate focus point flag inspections.
Talk soon turned to de-carbonisation with questions from the room around the guidance for testing innovative new technologies. The MCA are committed to drive the UK forward in this area and UKSR customers have access to advice and support as well as opportunities to safely test emerging solutions. Katy Ware announced that she had recently recruited a senior member of the team to focus specifically on helping ship owners navigate their way through this ‘innovative time’ especially over coming regulatory boundaries to innovation.
Seafarers were also on the agenda with Katy Ware revealing changes to certification processes which will make it faster and more convenient for both seafarers and operators employing them, she said “our seafarers also deserve an excellent, modern service, we’re making operational changes so our team are more readily available, for example, an urgent request for a Certificate of Equivalent Competency will now be issued within 24hours, seven days a week”
The UKSR and MCA are also working alongside colleagues from the Red Ensign Group to produce more guidance on the welfare of crews with a particular focus on their mental health; a topic that resonated with attendees in the room.
The conversation led to the forum setting the agenda for the first UKSR Technical Seminar planned for September 2020 in Liverpool. Deeper insight will be given on topics such as seafarers, crew welfare and innovation in the maritime sphere.