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Embracing failure – LNG shipping can reshape safety culture

Mon 10 Jul 2017 by Karen Thomas

Embracing failure – LNG shipping can reshape safety culture
Yuzuru Goto: creating a collaborative culture

Nor-Shipping in Oslo highlighted a positive shift to digitalisation in our industry – but as much as I enjoyed that focus, it also struck me that safety at sea slipped off the event’s main agenda this year, writes Yuzuru Goto.

For years, the shipping industry has focused on technology, training, regulations and procedures. Despite this, LNG shipping is still at risk of major accidents. That risk has prompted large energy corporations to put the human element at the top of their agendas.

Strategies for tackling the human element to improve safety vary from company to company. At K Line LNG Shipping (UK), we believe that the way to improve safety and to reduce major accidents is to create collaborative organisational cultures from within.

Tradition holds that the way to avoid failure is to do everything right in the first place. But failures occur because technology, training, regulations and procedures cannot eliminate risk in a complex industry like shipping.

Everyone has bad days. What matters is how you react to the inevitable – how you handle failure. I believe this is an industry blind spot.

When we focus on doing everything right in the first place and police this through inspections and audits, we risk making people reluctant to admit their failures, concerns and mistakes. This, in turn, creates and supports a culture of cover-ups – creating a negative cycle based on distrust.

In too many major shipping accidents, crew knew before the event of the failures that caused the incident, but they failed to raise or correct the issue. The way to tackle this is to create an organisational culture that allows us to be vulnerable, to feel safe enough to admit failure and report it.

Everyone has bad days. What matters is how you react to the inevitable – how you handle failure

LNG shipping needs to create a culture that embraces failure as the way to learn. What we need is not to punish, but to help our people collaborate to manage failures before the situation becomes critical and leads to a major accident.

We can significantly cut the number of major accidents in LNG shipping and improve maritime safety in general.

Our industry has everything to gain from reducing major accidents. LNG shipping – with its stronger value chain of charterers, terminal operators, shipowners, shipmanagers and underwriters and with our stringent safety standards – is well-placed to lead change across shipping.

Supported by maritime consultant Propel, K Line LNG Shipping (UK) has been working on eight safety-leadership behaviours. We are applying this methodology to break down the barriers between ranks and to build bridges between them, or between different nationalities or locations, including ship versus shore.

We are working to build trust and collaboration within the organisation, to make our safety culture more mature – reducing the risk of major accidents.

Using Propel’s insight through Attensi’s advanced platform, we are the first company to utilise a human interaction-focused 3D simulation model with scale. We are using this to train all our staff to practise failure in a safe environment – and, more importantly, to learn from it.

This leaves K Line LNG Shipping (UK) with a dilemma, however. Creating a culture that is open to failure sits uneasily with a compliance-based maritime safety regime based on ticking the right boxes.

It takes courage to be open, to admit to or highlight mistakes. But now is the time for LNG shipping to stick to its purpose and be a role model.

K Line LNG Shipping (UK) is not alone in this. We met other believers at Nor-Shipping and are working together to drive that shift in culture.

Safety shouldn’t be dull; together let’s make it fun.


Yuzuru Goto is managing director of K Line LNG Shipping (UK)

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