Reggio Calabria, 11/9/2014

Dear Colleagues,

In welcoming you I must admit that, today, I am particularly pleased.

Pleased to see so many of you here, in Italy, in my country, and even from faraway places.

Pleased about the impeccable organisation of this event that, I believe, is a defining moment for the International Boatmen’s Linesmen’s Association. For this I must dutifully thank ANGOPI and its entire organisational staff as well as the Mooring Men/Boatmen Groups of Reggio Calabria and Villa San Giovanni who, thanks to their efforts, made this initiative possible.

But, above all, I’m pleased, and in fact thrilled, to see here, for the first time, representatives of companies, even geographically far from us, like Argentina and the United Arab Emirates, with whom we can interact and share experiences directly.

Therefore, I’m happy that the IBLA is growing. The IBLA that I’ve always believed in and that, thanks to the efforts made, is reaching, albeit slowly, those goals that we mentioned the first time during the EBA meeting in Paris in 2005; objectives that were then achieved in Ravenna in 2006 with the birth of the Association.

Today, in welcoming the new members, I would like to emphasise that we have the extraordinary opportunity to further expand our experiences and skills, and to enrich ourselves at the same time.

But when I say enrich ourselves, it should be clear that I’m not referring to monetary terms because, on the contrary, our initiatives have, to tell the truth, reduced our limited resources. Instead, I’m talking about enriching our knowledge base, which allows us to discover new horizons.

In fact, there is no doubt that automation and increasingly sophisticated devices have modified the general work conditions on board, in ports and on quays. In recent times, there has been an inexorable propensity toward a more instrument-based control of processes that profoundly affect the human role. The trend is to continue to increase the degree of self-regulation of systems, limiting man’s actions even more.

But managing manoeuvres is a variable that requires continuous mental and manual application that excludes those automatisms that can be programmed in advance and therefore carried out by instruments.

With this in mind experience teaches us that no matter what technical level is achieved, the “human” factor during manoeuvres goes beyond all other evaluations, in the sense that all the automatic systems and all the parameters that are analysed through onboard instrumentation, can also be foreseen through computerised systems: but this management – a consequence of “programmed” and estimated values and data – during berthing and/or departure operations – undergoes continuous changes that must be regulated.

It must never be underestimated that ships, especially in tight and congested spaces, must be managed at every single moment, and out of necessity, in person, to understand all possible effects, in the attempt to prevent and avoid even the smallest error. That’s because sooner or later, that error will find a way to join others, duplicating the effects, thereby creating an event that may even become dramatic.

That’s why those we interact with must never forget that managing manoeuvres requires constant mental and manual application during which our actions must be capable of satisfying – through a proper organisation of men, equipment and instruments – the overall needs of safe navigation and berthing in ports and in adjacent waters. Indeed, the idea that incorrect manoeuvres during mooring/unmooring operations may lead to accidents is not so farfetched. In fact, experience has shown that such an error may originate from various causes, such as those external to the ship (i.e., weather conditions), intrinsic factors (such as damage or breakdowns) or human error. Based on this companies like ours must have an organisation that ensures maximum operating skills in order to guarantee maximum safety during such operations.

I’m thinking then, with regard to his operating skills, that the mooring man – by virtue of the widespread use of new technologies and, in general, because of the high level reached by the developmental process in transport that requires greater technical and professional knowledge – is becoming increasingly more qualified while remaining constantly up-to-date with the rapidly changing times.

In terms of technological progress, I recall a quotation by an extraordinary German philosopher and economist who, around the mid 1800s, stated: “The main means of reducing circulation time is by improving communications.” In this field the last fifty years have led to a revolution comparable only to the industrial revolution of the second half of the 19th century…At sea the slow and sporadic sailing ship was replaced by the fast and regular steamer line, and the entire world was embraced by telegraph wires. The Suez Canal really opened steamer traffic to Eastern Asia and Australia for the first time. The circulation time for a freight shipment to the Far East, that in 1847 was at least twelve months, has now been reduced, more or less, to just as many weeks.

And we should recall what we have achieved today in the 21st century. These are the challenges that are facing us in the future!

This leads us to raise the level of our future objectives in accordance with what we had envisaged more or less two years ago during the meeting in Santorini where you reconfirmed my presidency of the association.

It is known that the objectives IBLA proposes to achieve, and that we emphasise here even more, basically concern the following:

  • the need to be recognised by the International Maritime Organization as “Auditor Members” which would allow us to take part in those meetings in London that focus on issues involving our category, giving us the opportunity to be informed about those initiatives that may have negative effects on the future of our service. Our common objective is to harmonise professional standards for every person who carries out the mooring activity in all ports around the world. And it should be clear that this is not something insignificant. In fact, we have to go up against representatives of countries who consider the mooring activity as something almost “trivial” and not as the core that guarantees the safety of navigation in ports and adjacent waters, where manoeuvres are even more difficult. To this regard, I would like to share with you what our friend Rich Molony (hello Rich) told me, a few days ago, in a conversation he had with the director of a Canadian port on the Pacific Coast. When Rich contacted him to see if there were the prerequisites for their membership in our association he was told that the service in his port was carried out by using a kind of gangmaster system. It’s hard to believe but when a ship reaches the gates of the port a few people are recruited on the spot and then they are paid “directly” by the ship’s agent. And in the port of Los Angeles, access to the mooring man profession is granted only to those who have been a union member for at least twenty years, while training is provided by the mooring company only when that person enters the firm. Now you can understand quite well that training someone who is more than forty years old, and who comes from a completely different type of job experience, is not a very easy task. I note with bitterness that while million of dollars or Euros are spent to guarantee the safety of navigation on the open sea, with increasingly larger vessels built and equipped with the most modern technologies, everyone forgets the last mile, potentially the most dangerous one, since it takes place in tight spaces, with intense maritime traffic and, in this entire context, in these situations, a non-professional mooring service is used. This is concrete proof of how much must still be done and just how necessary it is to achieve our objectives, to increase the number of our members, bringing companies and activities from all continents into our association.
  • The recognition and adoption, by the IMO, of those professional standards that we believe are indispensable for carrying out the activity in a professional manner. Possessing the qualifications for operating nautical vessels suitable for carrying out the service, being familiar with the winds and tides, knowing how to interpret the mooring manoeuvres and whatever else is needed to offer a professional service, the safest possible to safeguard human life, port infrastructures and ships that call on ports around the world. Qualified personnel capable of taking action with qualified skills during emergencies at sea and on the quays. When I talk about the mooring man, it should be clear that I mean the entire category, without any distinction in terms of roles without considering the activity carried out in that particular moment, since, as always, there are interchangeable duties that vary based on needs. But, above all, I would like to point out that within the IMO there is a need to review the text of the 2005 “Guidelines” in order to incorporate the mooring activity and the professional skills of the personnel carrying out the service into a single shore/sea concept. For us, there cannot be a mooring man who carries out only quay-side operations with professional skills that differ, or that are not even requested, from those who provide the service using motorboats, with quite different qualifications, since these roles have always been interchangeable.
  • And finally, and always within the context of the IMO, the possibility of converting what are currently defined as “Guidelines” into standards that are actually applied. Today we note that these documents are neglected on a regular basis. Once recognised as standards, we want them to be applied in all ports whose governments are affiliated with the IMO.

This is the work that lies before us. An overly ambitious objective? Perhaps. But we should recall that everything I just mentioned is the end result of a real situation in which, pragmatically, we all have to go up against every day.

I will bring my report to an end pointing out that I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the representatives of the IMO – who tomorrow will participate in our works – for the support they have been giving us with regard to our expectations.

Marco Mandirola

President of IBLA