It will be time for the next P&I inspection before you know it. So what is the importance of these inspections? Are they a burden or a service? NNPC spoke to Walter Dekkers, Managing Director of Van Ameyde Marine which carries out these inspections for the insurer.
Walter Dekkers started his career at Van Ameyde in 1990 as a Technical Surveyor. However, before joining the company he sailed the world and worked for a number of shipping companies for seven years when he first left the Maritime Academy [Hogere Zeevaartschool]. At that time his job consisted of engine maintenance work, which is a very different to the work he subsequently went on to do at his current employer where he worked his way up to Managing Director in 2006. The experience he gained during those initial seven years after leaving the Maritime Academy nevertheless proved to be very valuable for the company.
Can you tell us what exactly a P&I inspection entails?
“P&I stands for protection and indemnity. It is a liability insurance for shipping companies. Just like for cars there is a clear distinction between liability and comprehensive insurance in the case of vessels too. P&I inspections, such as the ones we carry out for NNPC and others, are in fact a risk analysis. That is, during such inspections we look at whether a vessel has been properly maintained and whether the owners have ensured that risks are kept to a minimum. We not only carry out a visual inspection of the actual vessel itself but also look at whether the crew on board meets the requirements and enough attention has been paid to training. This is important because many incidents are a result of human error.”
What do the inspections involve?
“First of all, we follow the checklist of the P&I club that engages us. These sometimes tend to differ. Our main focus is on the risk areas for the club, the things that could lead to liability in the event of damage to third-party property. Aspects such as the crew standards, the maintenance of hatches where cargo damage can occur, whether preventive measures have been taken to prevent oil spills, for example, whether the engines are in good condition… It’s an overall impression of everything from the bridge to the engine room, but with a focus on things covered by the P&I club.”
What makes these inspections different from those carried out by a classification society or Port State Control?
“In short, the main emphasis is on prevention. But let me start by saying something about the other two. A classification society certifies vessels. We don’t. They monitor requirements set by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) and work on behalf of the flag state where the vessel is registered. Their main focus is on regulations and they stay on top of these from new construction, approving drawings, etc. Then there is Port State Control. They often pop aboard unannounced when the vessel is in port. These inspections can be quite extensive. They look at safety and aspects such as the equipment on the bridge, whether the charts have been properly updated, but also at whether the classification society is doing its job. And if this is not the case then the worst-case scenario is a threat of detention.’
So the emphasis is on very different things.
“We are focused on preventive action to minimise risks and thus prevent damage, mainly to the cargo, which is the most commonly claimed damage. For example, we look at the watertightness of the hatches, the presence of deformations, black corrosion or traces of leakage, or, for example, a risk of spillage during bunkering. Van Ameyde Marine is very much focused on this as well as on the knowledge and skills of the crew and whether the certificates still meet the requirements. We do all of this in plenty of time to ensure that you will still have an opportunity to make adjustments and improvements. A standard inspection takes no more than a day, but for NNPC we also arrange a shorter one which gives an overall impression and takes four hours. This saves time and money but it is just a snapshot in which only the larger defects may become evident. If it appears that there are more serious problems we will recommend a full inspection.”
So you help shipowners avoid problems?
“We are there to assist. Not everyone is keen on inspections and we understand that. That is why we often explain the benefits for the shipowner: we do not come on board to police things, absolutely not! Inspections are always carried out in consultation with the shipowner to ensure that they fit into the busy schedule and we don’t necessarily only look at defects, but also at how things could possibly be improved. That is our area of expertise. Those observations can help a shipowner avoid accidents and reduce cargo damage. If NNPC did not have any inspections carried out, the premium would shoot up because there would be more claims. So in the long run, these inspections actually save money. They help the P&I club keep its insured fleet in order and premiums low.”
Have there been any new developments in your field?
“There are more and more new challenges with regard to environmental requirements, new fuels, cyber risks, remotely controlled equipment on the bridge and engine room… Partly as a result of this, our inspections are increasingly taking on the nature of an audit to see that not only the hardware is in order, but also the software. They include the shipping company’s policy on procedures, crew training and the Safety Management System. For this reason, we evaluate the inspection list in good time and adjust it where necessary.”
Are there any final thoughts you would like to share?
The P&I inspections are an (additional) service from NNPC aimed at minimising risks for the shipowner, crew, client and the environment. The ship’s management generally already has this under control to such an extent that inspections like this may seem unnecessary but the experience and knowledge of our P&I experts nevertheless often brings things to light. So the inspections pay off. In our job we come across vessels with all kinds of problems but in general NNPC is a good club with vessels that do not have many defects. And that is partly because of these inspections, which are an important service.”