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Safety must come before operations. The message from Grahaeme Henderson, Shell’s vice-president of shipping and maritime, is unequivocal and his company intends to take a leadership position on improving standards within the maritime industry.
In an interview with Fairplay, Henderson, who is also president of the UK Chamber of Shipping, said the industry needs to sit up and start questioning the loss of life in shipping.
“I am not saying casualties are happening every day, but it is not unusual to regularly read about casualties in the maritime media,” he said.
Referring to the recent loss of 32 seafarers on the Iranian Suezmax tanker Sanchi, which sank off the South China Sea, as well as other casualties that have not commanded headlines, he said the industry should ensure better safety measures, rather than wait for the incidents to happen.
Henderson believes that the true number of shipping-related casualties is underreported because most statistics exclude accidents involving fishing vessels. He said Shell is determined to promote safety across the industry.
“We need to give a greater profile to accidents, why they have happened, and what we can do to prevent them from happening again,” he told Fairplay.
“Shell intends to make a significant move in safety to bring the shipping industry together.”
Shell operates nearly 2,000 floating assets and moves 20% of the world’s LNG either directly – on the 40 LNG carriers it operates – or indirectly, on 55 chartered vessels. According to Henderson, the company has achieved strong safety results with its Maritime Partners in Safety scheme that was launched a few years ago.
The programme, which involves about 500 partners that work with Shell and meets annually in either in London, Singapore, Rotterdam, or Houston, Texas, puts leadership at the heart of safety.
The involvement of a company’s senior leadership team makes a big difference to safety, Henderson said, adding, “People look up to their leaders. The leader sets the vision and the direction. As leaders, we need to be aware of the impact we are having and you have to take this seriously. It is a matter of priority. You need to make sure you have time for safety.”
The programme involves Shell and its partners sharing honest feedback about their safety processes, with Henderson believing that everyone in the industry should take up a similar kind of programme.
For Shell, its partners’ attitude towards safety determines whether the company is prepared to do business with them.
“If a company demonstrates that safety is not its top priority, then we don’t want to do business with it,” he said. “There are companies that we no longer do business with because it became clear that safety is not their priority.”
According to Henderson, Shell has improved its safety performance since he took this role in 2011. At the time, the company had an actual or potentially serious incident every seven days. This figure has dropped to once every 25 days, he told Fairplay, but even though Shell “is pleased with this result, it is still not good enough for us”.