The International Safety Management Code (ISM) is one to which little time is given in the superyacht industry. The result: insufficient comprehension and poor implementation. In a preview of issue 69, Lulu Trask investigates to what extent captains and managers are stumbling their way through the Code and what needs to be done to achieve improved understanding and its meticulous execution.

“Managers are scared of ISM and they don’t know what it is. They approach it like a headless chicken.” Strong words from Captain Hefin Rowlands but seemingly and regrettably accurate. As with nearly all regulations in our industry, the commercial world had a head start with ISM when the Code was adopted by SOLAS in 1994, yet despite ISM’s introduction to superyachts (those commercially-registered and above 500gt) in 2002, with 12 years of practise the superyacht industry still can’t quite get its head around it.
In reality, the Code is not as much of a labyrinth as many would believe. While the Code itself was established for a commercial audience, its requirement for vessels to have their own Safety Management System (SMS) is the saving grace for the superyacht industry. ISM’s requirement of an SMS is one of the rare cases where we benefit from regulations that are not only industry specific but yacht specific, too.

"We need to ask management how much time they actually put into ISM."

“The preamble to the ISM Code sets the tone very well for its adoption and implementation,” explains Captain Colin Boyle of motoryacht Cloud 9. “In practice, the Code gives a framework that guides management and captains in their quest to ensure safety for all who come into contact with the vessel and its environment. With a bit of thought, it can be applied effectively on board yachts of any size and mode of operation, but must be knitted in to the vast and varied scope of work that all crewmembers carry out on board. A well-written SMS, backed by continuous training and communication from management, implemented by an experienced captain and enhanced by practical application by a dedicated crew on board is an ideal situation.” And while Captain Boyle also considers this to be the case on many of the fleet’s larger yachts, the pool of those who believe managers and captains lack the necessary acute understanding of the Code is growing.

Superyachts under management (many of which fall into the compliance bracket of being commercially registered and over 500gt) should benefit from the provision of an SMS from the management company. And the key word here is ‘should’. Complaints about the number of managers who can’t get to grips with the Code and, more importantly, its implementation on board yachts are rising. What should be a supportive entity is, in fact, becoming problematic. “We need to ask management how much time they actually put into ISM,” upholds Captain Rowlands. “Managers have got to get their head round it. They’re always quoting ISM but they haven’t been trained in it.”

Find the full article, including an in-depth look at today’s offering of superyacht-specific ISM training for captains and managers alike, in issue 69 of The Crew Report – out 24 June, 2014.