Acceptance is key to compliance management

Did you know that vessel owners are required to manage rain runoff? Or that vessel crews are required to screen shore-side bosses if they come aboard or that push-boats are required to have a bell of a certain size in case they anchor or run aground in the fog?

This is only the tip of the regulatory iceberg. Some regulations seem so ridiculous that vessel owners often think they can’t be true or that they will ever be enforced, or that someone will come to their senses and make the reg go away. A common strategy vessel owners often use is to contact some friendly competitors to see how they are handling a questionable regulation. They may end up convincing each other to adopt a “wait-and-see” approach. After all, the Coast Guard always gives 30 days to correct a deficiency, right? Some companies call the Coast Guard to ask about a particular issue. If the Coastie who answers the phone isn’t familiar with the issue or regulation, the company may say that the Coast Guard doesn’t even know about it and use that as an excuse to do little or nothing to comply. This is not good.

Acceptance is the second component to maritime compliance management. This is where the company management “buy-in” discussion has its roots. If a company ignores a regulation, or does something halfway to make it appear it is trying, it will not be perceived by employees as having bought in to the program.

Vessel captains are charged with ensuring compliance with the majority of vessel regulations. If a captain knows or perceives that his or her company is not taking a regulation or program seriously, why would they? A basic principle of leadership is that to be a good leader, you must first be a good follower. That doesn’t mean just doing what your boss says. It applies to following all rules and regulations.

If your company is having trouble getting its captains to be proactive on compliance issues, examine your company’s attitude toward the regulations. Why would crews put forth an effort if they know the company thinks it’s all a bunch of crap? Unless a company accepts a regulation it will be plagued with problems in the long term.

For more information, visit Maritime Compliance International.



About the author

Kevin Gilheany

Kevin Gilheany is a marine consultant and owner of Maritime Compliance International in New Orleans. He works with companies to help increase profitability through improved compliance and management systems. Gilheany is a retired U.S. Coast Guard marine inspector, certified marine surveyor and auditor, and crew endurance management expert. He has also provided contract training to the U.S. Coast Guard, was an adjunct instructor of maritime security at Tulane University’s Homeland Security Studies Program, and has contributed to marine industry publications. He can be reached at or

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