The Work Environment Convention was a very important step toward better conditions within the global merchant fleet. That is the opinion of Pia Berglund, CEO of the Swedish Shipowners’ Association, who hopes that the minimum requirements in the regulations will be raised.
”Our members do not want to compete with the work environment and social conditions. We have everything to gain from the regulations being further tightened.
It was almost exactly three years ago that Pia Berglund, a maritime lawyer, became the first woman at the helm of the Swedish Shipowners’ Association. During her time as CEO Sweden has risen to the top of the Paris MOU white list, where the quality of flagging states is assessed on the number of detentions and shortcomings during port state inspections.
”I think it is because we have chosen to stay outside the race to the bottom and focus on quality and well-trained crews instead,” she says.
But she is concerned that the effects of investing in the work environment are difficult to measure in monetary terms. She says it is impossible to know whether Swedish shipowners benefit in the fight for cargo as a result of their focus on quality. Yet she is still convinced that this is the right way to go.
”If you have ships and cargo worth millions, I don’t think it’s very smart in business terms to compromise on quality and skills. I think that investments in the work environment are linked with the way you do business, and that the flat organisation we have on our ships contributes to a good safety culture.
Pia Berglund has long experience of the transport industry. She grew up in Västerås and already at the age of 18 she was a forwarding agent at ABB. After taking a degree in maritime law and logistics, by the end of the nineties she was working with the Swedish Maritime Administration. It was mainly the international aspect that attracted her to shipping, and in 2011 she became the Transport Agency’s representative to the EU maritime authority, EMSA, in Lisbon.
”EMSA works from the bottom up, and I like the approach of getting all the member countries on board in terms of safety and environmental work. Competition with the work environment and safety is not only with third countries, but also within Europe. But there is a social commitment within the EU and work is in progress to improve the quality of the ships sailing under European flags,” she says. According to Pia Berglund, the most important step in curbing unfair competition was when the Work Environment Convention entered into force in August 2013.
”Getting the Convention in place was a large step forward. Even if it only prescribes minimum levels and the base is incredibly low, it gives us a legal basis to stand on and work from.”
In other areas, it is the impact of the new tonnage tax that currently engages her more than anything else. Politicians have been clear in their goal of increasing the number of ships sailing under the Swedish flag, which is a challenge for the shipping industry.
”We have had the Tax Agency working with us, and there are between 20 and 25 shipping companies that have participated and shown interest in joining the tonnage tax system. But it is a major decision to make, and it is up to each shipowner to decide what is best for their business.”
Family: Husband and two children, 12 and 15.
Lives: In a house outside Norrköping.
Currently: CEO of the Swedish Shipowners’ Association, which works for a tougher international regulation of conditions related to the work environment and social conditions of seafarers.
Background: Forwarding agent at ABB in Västerås. Swedish Maritime Administration/Swedish Transport Agency 1999. Lawyer in maritime law and logistics. Swedish Transport Agency’s representative at the EU maritime authority, EMSA, from 2011 to 2013. CEO of the Swedish Shipowners’ Association since 1 February 2014.
Work environment tip: Human factors is often mentioned as a cause of accidents in the maritime sector. We usually point out that human factors more
often save us from accidents. Personnel are one of our greatest assets.