The ISM code, STCW convention and now the problem with tiredness. The managing director of the Ship Officers’ Association has pushed work environment and safety issues in international shipping contexts like few other Swedes have done.
”You who work with safety at sea and work environment, do not give up. If you spit often enough on a hot stone it will cool down.” This piece of encouragement came from the winner of this year’s SAN work environment prize as he was awarded the honour at the board’s conference in Göteborg in October.
For more than 30 years, Christer Lindvall has been involved in issues related to the work environment and safety at sea. Not least in the IMO (International Maritime Organization) and the ILO (International Labour Organization) has he continued to drive these issues, at times in the face of massive resistance.
Home: Terrace house in Åkersberga northeast of Stockholm
Family: Wife, four daughters and six grandchildren.
Background: Sea Captain degree in 1966. Worked at Broströms and Svea (later Silja Line) until 1978. 1979–1980 ombudsman at SFBF. 1981 Captain and partner of the joint-ownership shipping company Ro-Ro Tank. Active at SFBF since 1982, MD from 1986. President of IFSMA (International Federation of Shipmasters’ Association) from 1998 and chairman of the ITF (International Transport Workers Federation) marine safety committee from 1997.
Present: Winner of the SAN work environment prize 2008 for successfully pursuing issues related to the work environment and safety at sea for many years, both in Sweden and internationally.
A good work environment is important for these reasons: primarily to protect the crew and passengers and to prevent accidents occurring. However, it is also important to create a better image of shipping and to show that we are a trade that works with these issues.
– In the past I was sometimes sidelined when I took up issues that people thought were not relevant to the IMO, and initially I was more sensitive to what other people thought. But I have always had a strong inner conviction and never doubted what I believe in, he says when we met on a grey morning in his terrace house in Åkersberga, northeast of Stockholm.
Christer Lindvall realised at an early stage that issues related to such a borderless trade as shipping must be pursued in international forums if they are to have any success.
– The work environment must never become a competition issue. No party should able to gain financial advantages by having a poor work environment.
His engagement has demanded a high pace of work and he spends almost as many days travelling now as when he was working at sea. This afternoon he is off again, this time to the Philippines. In the kitchen there is a colourful cloth bag with 20 kg of children’s clothes collected by his relatives that will be handed out during his stay there. He will give lectures on safety culture and tiredness-related problems to politicians, ship owners, authorities, union representatives and onboard employees in the Philippines.
Exhausted captains that fall asleep on the bridge due to high workloads is one issue he has driven since the beginning of the 1980s. It is also one of the reasons why he has chosen to continue working for some years to come, even though he was 65 in the summer.
– I don’t want to let this issue go now that we are so close to a change, he says.
He is referring to the revision of the STCW convention that is underway. STCW are the rules and regulations that determine the basic level of education for seamen, as well as issues such as manning levels and watches. It is Christer Lindvall’s hope that in future it will be forbidden to sail ships in international trade with only two nautical officers onboard.
– But at the beginning of the 1980s, many people thought that the IMO should not be involved in manning issues at all. I will never forget what happened many years ago when I took up the issue of working hours at the IMO and the representative from Cyprus became furious. He stood up and shouted at me and said that such issues had no place in the IMO.
Wants to export safety officers
But other people appreciated his striving to include ship employees’ conditions in the organisation, and these days manning is a natural question for the IMO. Christer Lindvall is now taking the next step and is trying to introduce the Swedish system of safety officers in an international context.
– That proposal came to a sudden stop because some people felt that the safety officer would be in direct competition with the captain. But we are continuing to work with the issue.
One of his achievements, which has probably made the greatest impression on the global trade fleet, is his work with the ISM code. After the catastrophe of the passenger ferry Herald of Free Enterprise in which 187 people lost their lives, the IMO appointed a working group to come up with proposals for measures to improve safety.
– Ulf Hallström and I worked out a proposal at our office which we sent to the Swedish Maritime Administration. They thought it was good and forwarded it to Norway, which was chairing the correspondence group. The Norwegians also liked what we had written and it was finally our proposal that arrived at the IMO and was later adopted after some small changes.
Initially the ISM was only a recommendation. But after one more tragic accident, the fire onboard the Scandinavian Star in 1990, it became binding.