Since 1833, Svitzer has provided safety and support at sea. Today, the company is a member of the Maersk Group – with a fleet of more than 500 vessels and operations in over 100 locations around the world – and widely recognized as the global market leader in marine towage and emergency response. Its leadership team is fully committed to safety and sustainability, continuously working to protect both people and the environment. Compliance with national as well as international legislation and conventions is a natural part of the company's core values. As a result, when lives were lost in 2012 during a tragic tugboat accident in Qatar, the company further intensified its efforts to promote safety culture and best practices enterprise-wide.
"Failure is not an option when it comes to safety," said Bent Nielsen, Head of Marine Standards at Svitzer. "We want to ensure that our employees can rely on Svitzer as a company to make sure that they go home safely. That is the philosophy from our CEO all the way down."
To follow through on this commitment, Svitzer set an ambitious goal. The company chose to implement the stringent Offshore Vessel Management and Self-Assessment (OVMSA) standard for safety performance - developed by the Oil Companies International Marine Forum – across Svitzer towage operations in 40 countries. Created in response to the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989, OVMSA is an oil-industry standard designed to help operators of offshore vehicles assess, measure and improve their management systems.
In pursuing OVMSA compliance, Svitzer was going well beyond the requirements for its own industry to meet a tighter standard that applies to its energy industry customers. This decision supported the company's strategic growth objectives: to expand business with automotive, oil and liquid natural gas (LNG) carriers and terminals. Svitzer would also achieve a new competitive advantage as the first tugboat company to be fully compliant with OVMSA.
"We're looking to raise the bar on our company's health, safety and environmental (HSE) culture in line with our goal of becoming the preferred partner for oil and gas majors and operators in the terminal towage and offshore LNG segment, as well as to strengthen our ability to manage and reduce operational risks," said Arnab Chakravorty, Regional Operations Manager at Svitzer.
To strengthen its HSE culture, Svitzer needed to provide its employees around the globe with regular updates on the latest maritime safety news and insights, including in-depth analysis of accidents, lessons learned, innovative best practices and more. Fortunately, company leaders knew they could meet this challenge by leveraging the one information source designed specifically for shipowners and managers who want to improve the safety and security of their vessels, crews and cargoes – Safety at Sea magazine from Maritime & Trade™.
Safety at Sea gives us exactly what we need to heighten the safety awareness and safety culture at Svitzer. It means we all speak the same language when it comes to safety, no matter where you are.
Developing One Global Safety Culture
For Svitzer, the most challenging aspect of aligning with the new OVMSA safety standards was the need to consolidate from seven regional management systems into one system for all locations – from Europe to EMEA to Australia to South America. Svitzer needed to roll out the new system, acquire end-user buy-in and train employees on a new paperless application for the tugboats, as well as a mobile application and web version for onshore users.
While the company was implementing its new unified management system, Svitzer also provided consistent, authoritative marine safety information to its 3,800 employees around world – on land and sea – by providing them with access to the online version of Safety at Sea. In addition, employees could also read information customized specifically for Svitzer by IHS Markit, such as safety scorecards and news about current safety measures.
"Our company's ability to achieve its goals is improved by providing a tool like Safety at Sea that is HSE-specific and provides perspective on challenges and opportunities facing the marine industry in general," Chakravorty said. "By having that external perspective as well as an internal Svitzer perspective, we have been able to create a bridge between the two – laying the foundation for more open and transparent communications."
Supporting a Comprehensive Program
Svitzer's safety enhancements included a number of additional measures. For example, all employees can instantly receive a Safety Flash after an incident, providing details. Executives from the company's headquarters in Copenhagen regularly visit tugboats around the world for safety tours. And, most importantly, all employees are empowered with "Stop Authority," actively encouraged to speak up any time they see something that is potentially unsafe. Their ability to recognize potential issues and/or divergence from safety best practices is enhanced by knowledge delivered from IHS Markit marine industry experts.
"We know people read Safety at Sea and they appreciate that we share this information on a monthly basis," Nielsen said. "Safety at Sea gives us exactly what we need to heighten the safety awareness and safety culture at Svitzer. It means we all speak the same language when it comes to safety, no matter where you are."
Achieving New Competitive Advantages
Svitzer successfully achieved compliance with the OVMSA standard in only one year. The company consolidated from seven safety management systems into just one global system and, in the process, reduced 1,400 disparate safety procedures down to 200 very focused best practices. Within half a year, the company also trained 1,700 employees globally in its two-day safety training program. From start to end, the program was completed on time and on budget.
More to the point, Svitzer's newly enhanced safety standard is achieving outstanding results. In 2013, the company earned the best safety scorecard in its history. Lost-time incidents decreased 66 percent. And the number of total incidents decreased even more dramatically – from an average of more than 14 per month in 2012 to less than 3 per month in 2013 – an 80 percent reduction across the company.
A stronger safety culture – supported by employees with a better understanding of safety issues and best practices – has given Svitzer a competitive edge by contributing to world-class corporate governance and operational efficiency, and positioning the company for success in its priority target markets. Energy industry customers know that Svitzer is the first tugboat company in compliance with OSMVA – meeting the same standards that their vessels must meet in the way work is performed, as well as equipment, software and staffing qualifications.
"To be successful, we must be able to deliver what is expected of us when it comes to working with LNG and oil tankers," Nielsen said. "We use Safety at Sea proactively when we go to customers to show the safety standards we are building on. Their eyebrows go up when they see the extent of our work to ensure safe operations. It is obviously an advantage because we are seen as somebody who isn't just talking the talk, but also walking the walk."