In a further response to the sinking of the South Korean ferry Sewol in April, safety issues will be centre stage at Interferry’s 39th annual conference, which takes place in Vancouver from October 4-8.
Prompted by the incident, the trade association is already in dialogue with the IMO about assisting in efforts to improve domestic ferry safety. Now these and other cooperative safety initiatives will feature in a wide-ranging conference agenda addressing the industry’s major regulatory, commercial and technical challenges.
The IMO’s latest safety strategy will be examined by special guest speaker Jeff Lantz, US Coastguard regulations director and chairman of the IMO Council. After reviewing current thinking on international passenger ship safety – notably arising from the Costa Concordia accident – he will outline IMO measures to help countries improve safety on purely domestic ferry services.
A panel discussion on the human side of safety includes John Garner, fleet director of UK-based P&O Ferries, describing how Maritime Resource Management (MRM) training aims to enhance company safety culture by changing attitudes and behaviours.
Stressing that MRM is not about technical skills, Mr Garner explains: “It is about the use and coordination of all knowledge, experience, expertise and resources available to the crew to achieve established safety and efficiency goals. MRM includes an understanding of the importance of good management and team work. Importantly, engineers and shore-based fleet personnel are included on the courses with the captains and deck officers.”
The panel will also include input from Darren Johnston – safety & security director at conference host BC Ferries – on the company’s SailSafe safety culture project, a trendsetting joint initiative with the BC Ferry Marine Workers’ Union. As he notes: “Things don’t go right because people behave as they are told, blindly following the rules, but because they are capable of adjusting performance to match the conditions and challenges of the modern operating environment.”
The theme of uniting in a common cause will be echoed when another special guest speaker argues for short sea operators to come together to define, defend and promote the industry. Kirk Jones, government affairs VP at Great Lakes and St Lawrence Seaway bulk carrier Canada Steamship Lines, says: “We need to find a common pathway to ensure our interests are met on a continual and sustainable fashion at the IMO. It will also be important to ensure that policy makers are cognizant of the value of our movements and the effect that shipping policy has on modal choice.”
Various new short sea opportunities will be explored in a session focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean. University of Trinidad & Tobago senior maritime lecturer Adrian Beharry will discuss proposals for a southern Caribbean fast ferry service handling intra-regional cargo and passenger trades, while US-based travel consultant Bruce Nierenberg will float the case for international services to Caribbean tourism hotspots. “These destinations require transportation for over 15 million US tourists a year, ” he points out. “Amazingly, the only way for Americans to get there is to fly. The ro-ro and container potential is significant as well. This should provide the catalyst for the world’s ferry operators to take notice.”
Opportunities to increase onboard revenue will be analysed in a retail and customer service session. This includes presentations from the Holland America cruise line, the Vancouver Airport Authority and from Sweden’s Stena Line, with head of onboard services Per Ola Jönnerheim, a former global sales manager for furniture giant IKEA, detailing a visionary approach to making shopping a reason for travel.
The business case for LNG fuel – an essential part of the technical content at recent Interferry conferences – comes under scrutiny from John Hatley, VP ship power at Wartsila North America. His update will summarise the key drivers of the shift to natural gas, compare the economic merits of LNG and diesel configurations and forecast market trends for the new fuel over the next decade. In addition, the requirements and options for LNG storage on passenger vessels will be discussed by Päivi Haikkola, R&D manager at Finland-based naval architects Deltamarin. Her presentation will include design conclusions drawn from several case studies.
Panel debates have also become an event fixture. As well as the safety panel, this year’s line-up will see British Colombia transport minister Todd Stone joining ferry company CEOs to discuss subsidies and governance at state-owned operators. Another top level panel will consider the viability of the ro-pax concept and the future of passenger shipping.
The two-day conference is part of a five-day working and social schedule that includes an exhibition supported by event sponsors, a golf tournament, a whale-watching safari and networking receptions. The programme concludes with a technical cruise on board Coastal Celebration – one of three of the world’s largest double-enders built for BC Ferries by Flensburger of Germany – when the crew will demonstrate emergency preparedness. Delegates and spouses will then have the option of a three-day post-event tour based in Victoria, the BC capital located on neighbouring Vancouver Island.