The need for a security culture

Security guard keeping lookout for pirates. Credit: Capt Singh Inderjeet

Safety and security are like bacon and eggs – they can survive apart but they are generally better together. The concept and practice of safety culture is now deeply embedded in maritime thanks to its (justifiable) obsession with safety, but it must take the same approach with security.

Largely it has been the offshore industry and oil majors that have pushed safety to the forefront and set the pace for maritime generally. It is no coincidence that Shell

Shipping’s Grahaeme Henderson, on assuming the presidency of the UK Chamber of Shipping two years ago, made safety the priority for his period at the helm.

While rules, regulations, procedures, and processes are all there, safety culture is that shift in behaviour that is required throughout the organisation to make the other components work. For the Chamber’s policy manager, Adrian Mundin, to achieve this engagement by top management is vital.

The chamber organised a safety culture safety with a full cross-section of the crew. event on board Saga Pearl last September as the ship transited down the UK’s west coast. More than 70 delegates from member companies attended and there were keynote speeches from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and representatives from the aviation and rail industries. It was concluded that, to move to a genuine safety culture, chief executives and senior management must lead the effort, rather than just the health, safety,

environment, and quality manager. It is essential to make time for regular visits on board to discuss safety with a full cross-section of the crew.

Lessons need to be learnt, not just from accidents but also from near misses and safety-related occurrences. Critical here is a ‘just’ culture, whereby individuals are encouraged to report near misses and are not penalised for genuine errors. Colleagues should be encouraged to intervene if something unsafe is witnessed, with successful intervention a skill in itself. The UK’s Royal Navy has adopted this culture too.

The same principles can be applied to security at sea. The past decade has seen a step

change in security awareness. It was forced upon the maritime industry by the explosion

of piracy in the Indian Ocean from 2008–11, but terrorism, smuggling, and many other

crimes flourish in the ungoverned space that is the high seas. There is no shortage of direction and guidance. From the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York came the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code; Somali piracy drove the inception of Best Management Practices, now in its fourth edition. However, more work needs to be done to cement a security culture that is as accepted as that of safety.

Again, top management should lead from the front, starting meetings with discussion

of a recent security incident, ensuring risks are identified and mitigation action is taken

early, and driving a manageable training programme. A just culture applies as much to

security as it does to safety: there should be no blame for reporting shortcomings in

security preparedness, but staff at all levels can be involved in finding solutions.

Regular security visits should be made on board with threats explained, hazards

identified, and risks managed. Risk assessments should lead to revised (if necessary) security policies, well defined procedures, and a relevant training programme.

Complacency and lack of preparedness were major reasons why many ships were hijacked in the Indian Ocean.

These are still seen in the other higher risk areas of the Gulf of Guinea and South China

Sea. A security culture that is as embedded as a safety culture should go a long way to

remedying it.

Recent Posts