On Global Shipping Registry: THE MARSHALL ISLANDS SERVICE EDGE
In a world enamored with size, the story of small David defeating giant Goliath comes as a refreshing breeze. In global economic competitions, nations with huge resources often dominate the sharing, taking the larger chunks, the prime cuts.
But not when a nation is smart; using its agility to move quickly and effectively, leveraging on what the Big Boys are unable to do.
This truism finds proof in the continuing success of International Registries, Inc. and its affiliates (IRI), which provide administrative and technical support to the Republic of Marshall Islands Maritime and Corporate Registries. The registry boasts of more than 178-million gross tons of 4,819 vessels at the tail end of November 2020, and continues to grow.
IRI services one of the top ship registries of the world, assisting clients and prospects in 28 offices located in major maritime and financial centers, operating 24/7 with local specialists in house, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marino World was granted an in-depth interview by Mr. Leo Bolivar, Country Head, Intl Registries (Far East) Limited Representative Office operating in Manila. We consider the gesture not much of a marketing ploy but of clinical analyses of issues. There were formalities but the overarching marks are clarity and candor.
MW - At the CrewConnect Global Session On Demand, Flag State Forum on Crew Supply virtual conference of 24 Nov 2020, Mr. John Hafner—IRI VP, Seafarers’ Manning and Training—stated, “From the Marshall Islands perspective, we don’t typically get involved with the logistics of crew changes. Though with this, we’ve had to increase our flexibility, increase our cooperation with organizations we normally don’t cooperate with: other flag States, the ITF, and the IMO.” Would you elaborate, please?
BOLIVAR: Crew change is not typically something that requires the involvement of the flag State. However, the COVID-19 situation created unprecedented issues with respect to crew change and crew welfare, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Maritime Administrator (the “Administrator”) got involved to support, guide, and assist owners and operators.
As a flag State, we have access to other flag States, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) to pursue and influence solutions to facilitate crew change on a global scale, and the relationships to address the needs of individual seafarers and vessels on a case-by-case basis.
This is a very difficult situation, but in the spring, the Administrator urged governments to identify seafarers as key workers, and urged stakeholders to treat this as a force majeure situation that necessitated flexibility. Flexibility requires cooperation, and as one of the largest flag States in the world, we’re able to connect and draw on relationships worldwide.
Although the situation is not resolved, it has improved, thanks to the industry-wide focus on seafarer welfare. There is, of course, room for improvement, and the industry will need to find permanent solutions to address future challenges to crew change.
On 1 December 2020, the United Nations (UN) adopted a resolution urging governments to identify seafarers as key workers and calling on all governments to implement measures to facilitate crew changes and travel and repatriation for seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
MW: How did the Marshall Islands Registry’s local office in the Philippines responded to the seafarers’ documentation requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic?
BOLIVAR: Despite the COVID-19 related lockdowns and restrictions imposed by the government of the Philippines in March, which ended just recently, the RMI representative office in Manila has been able to issue all the necessary International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) documents to Filipino seafarers joining RMI vessels.
The Manila office has also addressed the constant demand from the ship operators for the approval of crew change plans whose crew have extended beyond their contract duration due to the difficulties in repatriation brought about by the crisis. During the peak of the lockdown, our Manila office adapted the work-from-home and skeletal work plans to make sure there is no interruption of service to our clients, while still observing health and safety protocols, which are paramount.
Together with other regional office’s seafarers’ documentation departments, we worked as one big production line round the clock, tapping our local resources to compliment those of others. All of our regional production offices, including Manila, have proactively adapted to the changing norms, not only in terms of internal production processes but also in recalibrating our logistical strategies to ensure that the much-needed seafarers’ documents can be connected to the crew and the vessel in a timely fashion.
Lastly, our close coordination with local staffing agencies makes life a great deal easier for everyone involved in these challenging times. As always, good communication is key.
MW: Does IRI support RMI’s push for the treatment of seafarers as “key workers?”
BOLIVAR: (We)… were some of the first industry stakeholders to urge all governments to recognize seafarers as “key workers.” As one of the world’s leading registries, with more than 4,800 vessels and nearly 100,000 seafarers serving on RMI-flagged vessels, we are encouraged by the recent UN resolution, and support the United Kingdom and other countries in designating seafarers as key transport workers.
MW: How does the Marshall Islands Registry strengthen its position as a quality organization amid the COVID-19 crisis? How does it fare with the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) QUALSHIP 21 roster?
BOLIVAR: In addition to the normal activities of protecting life, the environment, and resources, the COVID-19 pandemic means that the RMI Registry must now, more than ever, focus on ensuring that RMI registered ships continue trading safely to keep the global supply chain moving.
The COVID-19 situation does not change the Registry’s focus on quality, safety, and security. In fact, many of the changes we’ve implemented to our processes and procedures as a result of COVID-19 will serve to strengthen our high-quality inspections and safety processes in the future. We expect to continue to use virtual inspections and technology in the future to support onboard inspections.
For an unprecedented 16 consecutive years, the RMI Registry has achieved Qualship 21 status with the USCG. More than 30% of vessels with Qualship 21 certification are flagged with the RMI, a number unsurpassed by any other foreign flag registry.
MW: How does RMI reflect on the Tokyo Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Annual Report in terms of the best quality and safety standards? Was RMI recognized at this year’s Tokyo MoU’s Annual Report on Port State Control (PSC) in the Asia-Pacific Region?
BOLIVAR: In the most recent Tokyo MoU Annual Report (2019), the RMI had the lowest detention ratio of any of the top three registries, with a three-year rolling average detention ratio of 2.19%. This underscores the value and popularity of the RMI Registry in the region.
This success is largely due to our proactive approach in supporting owners, which has continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic: our inspectors are, and have always been, in daily contact with PSC personnel. Over the past six months, our teams in Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Korea, and Japan, and our extensive network of in-house inspectors and contractors across the region, have been working even more closely with PSC authorities.
Since 2018, there has been a focus on increasing capacity and quality within the region. Accordingly, the Administrator has increased the number of inspectors, enhanced onboard training where possible, and deployed an in-house inspector to oversee operations in Australia.
MW: The RMI Registry focuses on enhancing resources to sustain its 2019 best ranking ever from PSC authorities like the Paris MoU, the USCG’s Qualship 21 program, and the Australian Maritime Safety Administration (AMSA). Is your remote inspection program helpful for more effective communication between crew and operators? Do statistics support RMI’s Critical Items Checklist as a tool for optimizing efforts during the pandemic, providing added value to operators and the crews on board?
BOLIVAR: Unable to maintain normal shipboard operations and inspection schedules due to COVID-19 restrictions, and with regulatory and compliance changes, the Registry has 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 our 28 worldwide offices. 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. 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 and have provided additional value to operators and the crews on board during this uncertain time. With the goal of providing real value to the fleet, the Registry has focused on strengthening and expanding technical resources worldwide to enhance local expertise.
Leo M. Bolivar opened the Manila operations in 2015 as Office Manager, was promoted as Country Head the following year.
Prior, Bolivar worked for Navis Maritime Services with the Board of Directors, then Senior Executive VP, and GM, honing him in the management of day-to-day administrative operations, internal and external audits, and the development and implementation of compliance with key corporate, legal, and regulatory requirements.
These supplemented insights gained from four other maritime firms he served earlier.
Bolivar is a member of the Phil-Norway Business Council, the Filipino Association for Mariners’ Employment, and Chairman and Co-founder of Maritime Stakeholders Alliance Asia.
International Registries, Inc. and its affiliates (IRI) provide administrative and technical support to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Maritime and Corporate Registries, the latter one of the leading registries in the world.
IRI’s network of offices in major shipping and financial centers throughout the world, are able to register a vessel or yacht, including those under construction, record a mortgage or financing charter, incorporate a company, issue seafarer documentation, and service clientele.
The RMI is White Listed with the Paris and Tokyo Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs), meeting the flag criteria for a low risk ship scrutinized by the New Inspection Regimes.
For 16 consecutive years, it has maintained QUALSHIP 21 status with the United States Coast Guard, a feat unprecedented.
IRI provides full service from any office, 24/7. By continuing to strengthen the team worldwide, it ensures a high level of customer service and continuous improvement of registry-related services for the growing number of RMI-flagged vessels.