In 2021 we launched different projects aimed at improving internal communications in order to create a more unified company both at sea and ashore.
The safety and wellbeing of the personnel has remained a key focus area in 2021. Our shore personnel has continued to work remotely most of the year and we have closely followed the instructions received from authorities in Finland and Sweden. Extensive testing of sea personnel before going back to work continued in 2021 but regardless of all pre-cautionary measures, some COVID-19 cases were recorded onboard. However, these cases had only minor effects to the operation of the vessels.
ESL Shipping and its subsidiaries treat its employees in a just and equal manner in all countries where it operates. The applicable local legislation and regulations are complied in all contracts of employment. The Group is committed to respecting internationally accepted human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Our Code of Conduct defines a common set for rules for the Group’s entire personnel. We reject any discrimination based on education, competence, position, personality, way of life, work experience, ethnic origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, nationality, abilities or other qualities.
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to have a particularly significant impact on crew changes, maintenance and spare parts deliveries on ESL Shipping’s vessels due to in-sufficient flight connections and various travel restrictions. Preventive measures for protecting crew members’ health security, including advance testing and quarantine arrangements, continued throughout the year.
ESL Shipping’s vessels are an important part of the nation-al education system providing opportunities for mandatory training for future seafarers. In 2021, 86 students were on board ESL Shipping’s Finnish-flagged vessels for mandatory training. On average, each student spent 37 days onboard, around a week longer than before the pandemic. This is mainly due to the COVID-19 situation and travel restrictions in place which made crew changes challenging.
IMPROVEMENTS IN INTERNAL COMMUNICATION In 2021 we launched two projects to improve internal communications within the ESL Shipping group. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have had a weekly online morning coffee for the whole shore personnel where everyone has the opportunity to share the latest updates with everyone.
In addition to this, there has been the need for written communication as well. In December, we launched the first newsletter designed to give every employee both ashore and at sea a recap of what is happening across the group.
Secondly, we have worked hard to find a suitable intranet solution for our seafarers . This mobile based app will be launched during the first half of 2022. One of the key features of the app is automatically updated vessel itineraries, where seafarers are able to see the latest schedule Operators have planned for a vessel. This year the content and functionality of the app will be developed together with users based on the feedback and suggestions. The project to renew the intranet presently available for shore personnel commenced at the beginning of 2022.
COVID-19 and typhoon Odette impacted crew in the Philippines
Despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and typhoon Odette, we were able to continue crew changes of Filipino crew members through 2021.
The global community continued to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for the second year. Our crewing team in the Philippines continues to work together with our partner PTC to protect the health, safety, and welfare of all Filipino crew members to enable them to fulfill their essential work at sea.
VACCINES FACILITATED CREW CHANGES While conducting crew changes during the first year of COVID-19 was challenging, the implementation of the Green Lanes initiative in the Philippines and the establishment of clearer local and international crew change protocols proved to be a game changer. Thanks to this, crew change procedures for our Filipino crew members were implemented smoothly and efficiently despite the travel restrictions caused by the Delta variant.
To ensure the health and safety of our Filipino seafarers, all Metro Manila-based crew were required to undergo seven days of home quarantine prior to their deployment. Given this preventive measure, only two COVID-19 positive cases were recorded out of the 53 crew members deployed from July to December 2021.
We ramped up our vaccination program for all seafarers, with those onboard receiving their vaccines in ports across the globe. Shore personnel were likewise vaccinated through the vaccination program of PTC or via their respective local government units. All crew members were also encouraged to take their booster shots three months after completing the initial doses of their COVID-19 vaccine.
TYPHOON ODETTE CAUSED CONSIDERABLE DAMAGE As the Philippines continued its battle with COVID-19, Super Typhoon Odette devastated the southern part of the Philippines on December 16, leaving considerable damage to the country’s infrastructure and agricultural industry. The typhoon affected the lives of thousands of Filipinos who were left with-out homes and with no access to clean water, electricity, and communication services.
Personnel from these areas had difficulty getting in touch with their loved ones as internet service was cut off in the aftermath of the calamity. One crew member reported getting into a minor accident while their home was ravaged and an-other one reported that his house was damaged due to fallen trees and other debris. Fortunately, no other incidents were reported from these affected regions and all crew members and their families have been safely accounted for.
EXERCISING AGILITY AND FLEXIBILITY As 2022 entered, the country reported rising cases of COVID-19 due to the Omicron variant. Authorities put the Capital Region and other parts of the Philippines under Alert Level 3 which limited the conduct of non-essential activities and restricted the movement of unvaccinated individuals.
To mitigate the number of positive cases, we mandated new guidelines for onboarding Filipino sea personnel. RT-PCR testing will now be conducted for all embarking crew members seven days prior their scheduled departure. While waiting for their results, they will be placed under quarantine for seven days at a hotel and will again be tested a day before their scheduled flight. Medical protective coveralls will be provided for them while a sanitised van will transport them from the hotel to the airport.
Thanks to our crewing team’s agility and quick response to changing regulations, we are confident that we are able to continue performing regular crew changes in 2022.
Systematic development of safety continues
In order to ensure quality and safety of its fleet, AtoB@C Shipping introduced a dedicated Quality Superintendent who will frequently inspect both owned and chartered tonnage.
ESL Shipping’s operations and all of its vessels are certified in accordance with the requirements of the International Maritime Organization’s International Safety Management (ISM) code which provides an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention. This certificate is re-validated annually for the office and every 2.5 years for the ships. In addition, ESL Shipping holds the Document of Compliance issued by DNV GL on behalf of Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom. The document indicates the compliance with SOLAS Chapter IX.
ESL Shipping’s alcohol and drug policy is enforced through random testing and focused on testing of suspected breaches. During 2021, ESL Shipping discovered one incident (two incidents in 2020) where the shipping company’s substance abuse policy was violated. This incident did not endanger maritime safety, and the company reacted to these violations by taking appropriate action as required by the company’s safety policy and collective agreements. To ensure safety, ESL Shipping monitors any substance abuse by its employees through unannounced control tests. In 2021, these tests showed no violations.
Total Reported Incident Rate (TIR) in 2021 was 16.6. Previously this figure has only included ESL Shipping’s sea personnel, but from 2021 onwards we report the figure that includes the whole personnel. All but one incident required First Aid and medical treatment. No working time was lost due to these minor incidents. ESL Shipping continues to focus on the development of preventive actions to decrease the risks and minimise the consequences of any incidents or accidents. A good safety attitude, active identification of hazards and effective mitigation of the identified risks are the cornerstones to a comprehensive safety culture.
In March, a tragic accident leading to the loss of life of one crewmember took place on one of AtoB@C Shipping’s vessels while the crew was doing a regular maintenance to the hatch covers. In order to improve the safety culture within the coaster vessels, a new cooperation with external training organisation commenced. In the new model, an onboard trainer joins the vessel for a few days. During this period, the trainer ensures that the Safety Management System is fully followed onboard and arranging safety training, practical drills and refresher courses. The reactions from the crew have been very positive and practical training onboard the vessel has proved useful.
In 2021, AtoB@C Shipping employed a dedicated Quality Superintendent. The role includes frequently visiting both owned and time-chartered vessels to ensure that the vessels fulfil our requirements when it comes to the safety culture and technical quality of the vessel. Frequent inspections improve our possibilities to address potential issues also in the time-chartered fleet.