Op-Ed: Ardmore Shipping on maritime safety and innovations

Written by  
Gerry Docherty, Director of Fleet Management at Ardmore Shipping.

Gerry Docherty, Director of Fleet Management at Ardmore Shipping.

By Gerry Docherty, Director, Fleet Management  

The maritime industry faces unique safety challenges that require innovative strategies and cutting-edge technology to ensure the well-being of crew and the integrity of operations. Gerry Docherty, Director of Fleet Management at Ardmore Shipping, shares how the company fosters a culture of safety deeply embedded in every aspect of its operations.

For Ardmore Shipping, safety comes first, as it should for every leading shipping company. But making this commitment is just the first step on the road to building, maintaining and renewing a culture of safety that is embedded across the organization; in every team and department, on every vessel and on ship and shore.

The safety challenges that we face will evolve over time, but we can also embrace new tools, new strategies, and new approaches to ensure everyone is invested in maintaining the highest safety standards. At Ardmore Shipping, we take a keen interest in trialing and rolling out new solutions – particularly where technological innovations are offering better ways to support safety practices.

A successful example of this is our safety ratings app, which measures crew members safety awareness and knowledge. This tool provides anonymous feedback, both positive and constructive, that helps improve communication and the overall safety culture on vessels. The anonymity ensures that crew can report safety concerns without fear of repercussions, allowing underlying issues to be promptly addressed. Senior management takes this feedback seriously, taking immediate action on performance concerns and continuously improving safety protocols. The approach has proven effective in raising awareness and encouraging higher safety standards across our fleet.

To further enhance safety awareness, the Ardmore team has adopted innovative video training and digitalization methods. Traditional incident reports can be lengthy and difficult to digest, so we have introduced concise, 3-4 minute video summaries of incidents. These videos, produced by “Marine Pals”, the company that also designed Ardmore’s safety ratings app, provide clear, engaging content that crew members can easily understand. The engaging format of these videos has made it significantly easier for our crew to learn from incidents, with recent examples being a near miss during a mooring operation that was recreated, as well as a heavy weather incident, which resulted in a minor injury.

Additionally, Ardmore has implemented the Marine Flix app—a state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) training program for seafarers – also produced by Marine Pals, on behalf of Anglo Eastern. This immersive tool allows crew members to practice and refine their skills in a controlled, simulated environment, covering a wide range of safety topics. By simulating real-life scenarios, the VR training helps crew members prepare for potential emergencies, ensuring they are better equipped to handle various situations safely and effectively.

Effective communication is vital for maintaining safety standards. To improve direct engagement between the onshore office and ships, Ardmore has introduced regular video calls with onboard teams, as well as having vessels where possible connect into Crew Conferences to increase positive engagement. The rollout of Starlink Maritime, which is now installed on all Ardmore vessels, has ensured reliable communication channels. Improving the reliability of these channels allows for better connection with the crew and provides opportunities for the shoreside management team to communicate and offer presentations directly to those onboard.

To recognize and encourage outstanding safety efforts, we have also introduced a quarterly safety champion award. This award is given to crew members who demonstrate a strong commitment to safety, helping to motivate and ensure continuous improvement. The criteria for the award focus on proactive safety measures and the positive impact these actions have on the overall safety culture. Lessons learned from the quarterly safety champion program are shared proactively throughout the rest of the fleet.

By embracing new technologies and innovative strategies, Ardmore aims to enhance its safety standards and create a safer, more efficient maritime environment. Our commitment to safety is unwavering, with efforts driven by a deep dedication to the well-being of our crew and the success of our operations.

As Ardmore continues to invest in advanced training, digital solutions, and open communication, we plan to remain at the forefront of maritime safety. Navigating the future of shipping, we are confident that our proactive approach to safety and technology will lead to a more secure and sustainable maritime industry.

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