In our fast-changing world, electronic equipment is becoming more and more sophisticated, with a longer lifetime. This is also the case in the maritime industry. It is my conviction that maintenance of equipment on board, and thus the human factor, is key.
While we increasingly see equipment that is designed to be plug and play and resistant to failure, many ships around the world still sail with aging equipment and they will probably continue to do so in the years to come. Some companies do choose to fit their ships with the latest equipment, offering new functionality but maintenance is still often preferred to replacement. For the continuity of operations, the safety of the crew, but also in order to comply with maritime regulations, maintenance remains vital to prevent and repair breakdowns of on-board equipment.
Maritime regulatory bodies are busy updating the regulations concerning equipment on ships. A big development coming up are the SOLAS regulation changes 2020-2024. The Maritime Safety Committee is currently working on the modernisation of GMDSS, focusing on the harmonisation of communication and navigation equipment. This will of course have a significant impact.
As a service company, we respond to the need and necessity for maintenance. In our company strategy, the global service network, responsiveness and having technical experts in place for quick and effective service are crucial, whether it is in the Port of Rotterdam, or at the Suez Canal, where an average of 45 to 50 vessels pass through each day. Vessels must arrive at a ‘waiting area’ prior to transiting the Canal. A Suez Canal Authority inspector visits every vessel. Flawless, working equipment is necessary to get access to the Suez Canal. This is just one example of how reliable maintenance services need to be considered in a shipping company’s daily business, in this case saving money for the owners by avoiding high fines and giving the ships access to the Canal.
Quick response to service requests and having people ready for immediate service on board is a key necessity to keep vessels sailing.
Service is highlighted every day on our LinkedIn page. From all over the world engineers post their ‘#viewfromthebridge’. It shows how they deal with technical challenges, while always under the pressure of time constraints, racing against the clock as average port times decrease, to solve technical problems so the ships can sail as soon as possible. The #viewfromthebridge is not PR, it is real. Technical experts at work in the maritime industry. Their story, their troubleshooting challenges, their solutions.
It is a big responsibility for the shipowner, crew, equipment suppliers and service providers to ensure the safety of ships. The human factor was, is and always will be key.
Erik van der Noordaa
CEO RH Marine Group/Radio Holland Group