After a banner year for the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) fleet in 2019, with its best-ever ranking from port State control (PSC) authorities globally, the RMI Maritime Administrator (the “Administrator”) remained focused on enhancing resources despite the challenges 2020 has brought to the shipping community.
The RMI had its best performance year with the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), 16th consecutive year with the United States Coast Guard’s Qualship 21 program, remained as one of the top-performing flags on the Tokyo MoU, and improved its standing with the Australian Maritime Safety Administration (AMSA).
“COVID-19 restrictions have made it difficult to perform onboard inspections and this year will look very different for both port and flag States boarding ships worldwide,” said Brian Poskaitis, Senior Vice President, Fleet Operations for International Registries, Inc. and its affiliates, which provide administrative and technical support to the RMI Maritime and Corporate Registries.
Unable to maintain normal shipboard operations and inspection schedules due to COVID-19 restrictions, and with regulatory and compliance changes, the Administrator looked to proactively enhance resources to maintain its exemplary level of quality and safety. The RMI Registry quickly enacted guidance on remote inspections, virtual closings, and crew safety, while seamlessly transitioning operations between its 28 worldwide offices.
“The Administrator was well-positioned to adapt to these challenges,” said Poskaitis. “Our technical and marine safety experts are spread across the world, and today provide more value to our clients than ever before. In some cases, where superintendents cannot board vessels, flag State inspectors and technical operations teams have served as the eyes and ears of the operator in terms of monitoring compliance,” he continued.
Although the number of in-person RMI Registry inspections is down compared to 2019, the implementation of a remote inspection program has led to positive results with more effective communication between crew and operators. Statistics on past performance and the RMI Critical Items Checklist have proven to be excellent tools for optimizing these efforts during the pandemic and provide additional value to operators and the crews onboard during this uncertain time.
With the goal to provide real value to the fleet, the Administrator has focused on strengthening and expanding technical resources worldwide to enhance local expertise. The focus on providing local expertise throughout Australasia began in 2018 when Captain Sascha Dyker was promoted to Fleet Operations Manager. Since then, there has been a concentration on increasing capacity and quality within the region. To do so, the Administrator has increased the number of inspectors, enhanced onboard training where possible, and deployed an in-house inspector to oversee operations in Australia. RMI inspectors, based in key ports around Australia, are familiar with local port State control (PSC) authorities and communicate closely with PSC when a problem arises.
In October 2020, another step forward in strengthening resources in the region was taken by hiring Alexander Schultz-Altmann, formerly of AMSA. Mr. Schultz-Altmann brings significant expertise to the Administrator on vessel inspections and quality operations. As the former Chairman of the Tokyo MoU Committee on PSC, Schultz-Altmann also brings a wealth of knowledge on PSC procedures and is actively engaged in consulting on training programs, technical operations, and preparation for the upcoming virtual Tokyo MoU meeting.
“The Administrator continues to invest in technical resources worldwide, providing enhanced benefits to the RMI fleet which means there’s not a time of the day when an RMI-flagged vessel cannot reach someone from our team,” said Poskaitis.
“This year is unique, but nothing has deterred us from maintaining our high-quality standards fleetwide,” said Captain Sascha Dyker. “The Registry continues to be pro-active in ensuring global resources are available to our owners and operators; having additional resources in Australia has already produced benefits to the RMI-flagged feet,” he concluded.