Interview with Andreas Greve Jørgensen, Head of Global Operations, and Casper Stokholm, Senior Operations Manager, TORM Tanker division
...a couple of years ago. Safety became part of their core values and all departments are involved in the programme.
We have interviewed Casper Stokholm, Senior Operations Manager and Andreas G. Jørgensen, Head of Global Operations in TORM. In conjunction with the Technical department they are deeply engaged in ensuring safe operations. And this is not to the detriment of profit performance.
In this article they tell us about the benefits of the programme seen from their positions, what they do and give examples of safety situations where their role has been decisive.
What is your overall impression of the safety culture programme, which has been rolled out in TORM over the past couple of years?
Andreas: At the launch I was fully in agreement with the safety focus which is important for all tanker companies, and safety needed to get back on the top of the priority list again, so it was the right thing to do. I was in doubt whether we all, including the top management, would maintain the focus, but now that the safety programme has run for a couple of years, we can feel it running in our veins.
Casper: My greatest concern was that a new ‘poster hell’ would begin. There are so many posters on board the vessels, so you don’t see them any longer. Fortunately, that is not the case. Besides, I have participated in the Safety Culture Carrier seminars and I must say that they are good eye-openers for everyone. It is easy to see that the seafarers get something new, new subjects are included, and they discuss among themselves. I realised that I can also play a part in this.
What made you think that it is important to include your people (in Operations) in this programme?
We took an active role in this from the start. The programme was structured and organised according to what department we are in, which was good. Working on the commercial side, we are quite active in our communication with the ships – to a higher degree than for example the people in Finance – and this is reflected in our programme involvement. Therefore, it is important that the local operators participate in the officers’ seminars, i.e. 2½-day Safety Leadership sessions together with the crew.
So, we made a deliberate choice to support this programme and be accountable towards its implementation. The fact that we spend a couple of days together with our colleagues at sea is valuable, also beyond the safety aspect. We gain a lot of knowledge and feel much closer to their world and we take time to be present for more than just our own seminar presentation.
What are the benefits on the communication side?
In a way the safety programme has paved the way to achieving much better contact and collaboration in many other areas. Even the young trainees have participated in seminars in the Philippines, so they are ‘on board’ right from the beginning.
We want to have an open dialogue and minimize the distance between ship and shore. Our overall goal is to optimize our business, but we are aware not to overstep any boundaries neither with regard to compliance nor any other safety issues. Our problem is that sometimes we do not know where the boundary is, as we are not aware if they might have a rest hour problem on board, for example. Therefore, it is very important that they feel comfortable telling us if they have a rest hour issue, so we know if they can meet our requests.
Confidence and understanding of the situation on board are vital from our side. It makes us capable of asking the right questions and it opens for more fruitful discussions – and no one just plays the ‘safety card’ when things get complicated – meaning that safety can rule out any issue. Now, we are part of the discussion and finding the best solution.
How has the safety programme made it possible for you to be part of the dialogue and have these discussions?
The five Safety I’s (best practice safety behaviours) are vital. They have given us a new way to ask questions about safety without starting an argument whether they can make it in time or what the problem is. In other words, we don’t make a command, but we have talks at eye level with everyone actively listening.
Do you basically experience a different atmosphere in the office after the safety programme was initiated? Does the technical and operations departments approach each other differently now?
There has been a remarkable development in TORM, we have changed a lot. How people from Technical and Operations are now physically placed has eliminated the gap between the two departments. When we have a potentially unsafe situation, we are fully aligned on how to deal with it and discuss what we can all do to prevent this unsafe situation and make a safe operation. Our Technical department really has a ‘can do’ attitude and acknowledge the commercial aspects and they are willing to walk the extra mile to succeed and find the best and safest solutions together with us and the vessel. On the other hand, if the outcome turns out not to be directly in our favour, we will of course respect that and communicate that clearly. Both parties are dynamic, and we give each other feedback. I am certain that the safety programme has contributed to this.
Safety is not an obstacle that makes things impossible, but everyone in the organisation must be willing to find solutions. It qualifies us to work even safer. If I see a message that makes me alert, I will respond to it sooner than before.
Your role as safety ambassadors (safety culture carriers) – what does it mean to you?
It makes us feel much more responsible – it was easier to neglect things previously. Today it is on our agenda on an every-day basis and is supported throughout the organisation. Safety is now on the agenda at our monthly meetings and is prioritised in our department. If anyone observes anything it is discussed. We also share the good stories.
Another thing we did was to share the TORM Safety Standard (Code of safety conduct) with all the operators and charterers in all four offices. We were inspired to do so after our latest meeting with Green-Jakobsen where we were talking about the continuous focus on the safety programme. We asked our colleagues to go through the standard, be curious about its content and incorporate it in their every-day work. The Safety Standard is on everyone’s desk – I gather it helps to keep the safety focus, so anyone of us take action on anything we see, and do not leave it to someone else for example to the Safety department. Instead, we encourage the operators to call the captain/vessel and talk with them right away.
At one point one of our vessels was anchored during a storm. The captain was discussing the situation with Casper, and Casper’s message to the captain was:
“Pls. ensure to heave up anchor and drift if weather is not suitable to remain at anchor. It needs to be safe and we cannot afford the risk of incident to vessel, potential loss of anchor of even worse, risk to the crew”.
And so the captain did. If Casper didn’t intervene, he might have stayed, possibly lost the anchor, we don’t know, but they both took the responsibility and acted accordingly. And the fact that Casper was involved in the decision means a lot.
There is no doubt that it is important to our seafarers that the operations department is supportive in safety issues. Another example is a captain whose ship was involved in an intense situation during an STS operation in the Far East. After that the captain wrote a long email explaining his gratitude towards the support he received from the shore side during this stressful situation. We published it in our Shipmate newsletter.
When the crew on board experience that the shore side is supportive and say for instance: “get your rest hours under control before you sail”, then they dare ask another time and we avoid violating the safety. We cannot sit in the office and know of every situation on board. That’s why it is important to have this dialogue.
The language we use in this dialogue is also important. Recently a ship felt under pressure from the commercial side, but they didn’t tell us at that point. Only much later we heard about it from the vessel manager and we had lost the chance to discuss an important issue. We never meant to put pressure on them but that’s how it was perceived. In that case, the language means a lot and taking the opportunity to talk instantly. It is a maturity process we are all going through.
Do you have a structured dialogue between the operators and the vessel managers?
We have regular meetings among the commercial teams and the vessel managers in which we discuss specific issues on the ships. We also gather all commercial employees from all offices with the purpose to strengthen the collaboration and team spirit. This has strengthened our alignment on safety.
Our dialogue with the seafarers has also improved. After the courses, some of our seafarers have “seen the light”, and it is clear to see when they have just finished the course. They anticipate 3 (course) days in hell, but it turns out to be a success and they are much more into discussing things afterwards. These Green-Jakobsen courses are really effective, and the instructors are super good. They can loosen up and spark discussions and involvement.
In what way has this programme proved to be much better than the poster hell you feared to begin with?
The Safety I’s are a very useful element which means that we can work with safety without it being an obstacle costing money. For example, Innovation and Insight are I’s that are very much in our heads. The Operators are always part of finding solutions when there are incidents, etc. and we are the ones who issue an incident report to the entire office and are responsible for sharing the details. In case of a major incident we have a casualty meeting with all relevant persons attending. It is dealt with in a much more professional way and one single person is staying in contact with the captain.
In general, it is our experience that if we do not put our heads together, we make too many bad decisions.
Since this safety programme has put safety so much in focus and made it part of TORM’s core values, has it had any consequences regarding your client contracts? Have you been forced to decline client requests or contract opportunities?
No, on the contrary. For example, regarding rest hours, the vessel managers deal with that and we talk with them about it. This means that we don’t have to ask the vessel again why they cannot comply – we already know the conditions. On the other hand, our cooperation here in the office forces us to consider if we have given all available information to the captain for him to plan their rest hours. We also discuss with the vessel managers if our resources are utilized correctly, also on board – are they good leaders on board who can delegate and use the crew’s capacities well?
It makes so much sense that safety is part of our core values – why weren’t they always? It highlights that we are not only profit driven – we are also safe. Our safety ambassadors on board deserve even more attention in the future. All the good people who can help elevate the others and inspire them – we have to find ways to connect them through communication across the organisation. That is an interesting next step for us.
Overall, the attitude from everyone is to find solutions and support each other. There is a good drive in the company. We still have situations where information is not available in time, but we are constantly developing. We also share the good stories in our internal publications.
Our “Have you talked to your captain today?” campaign is a good driver to ensure personal contact with the captain, and also the chief and 2nd officer. And the personal contact is vital. When we know the captain better, we gain a lot and have a much more open dialogue.
Also, the safety leadership training has benefitted many officers. We still have leaders with varying leadership skills, but there are good role models out there to build on.
How will you continue this voyage? What is your major future focus?
Our focus will be to further develop the safety ambassador role. The many good people – of different nationalities – can inspire and positively impact others – and we need to find ways to connect the right people. Besides, we also see an opportunity to extend our collaboration with the Marine HR and become part of the debriefing process. At present we have a 2nd officer on rotation placed in Operations. That is a good way to bring knowledge about Operations work out on board and achieve a learning process that goes both ways.
We are on our way to having the same basic understanding of safety and daring to have open talks across departments is important. We are becoming better at it, but still have things to learn. The programme has unified our organisation and not divided it as we somehow feared to begin with.
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