Inside Ernst Russ: Technical Management
Ernst Russ, the Pioneer
A large number of national and international rules, treaties and laws are in place to guarantee the security of a ship, its cargo and its crew. A shipyard may, for instance, begin with the construction of a ship only once an independent classification society has inspected it to determine if the building designs correspond to the rules of ship building technology. Without the “Certificate of Classification”, the proprietor can neither finance his ship nor have it insured. And without insurance coverage, no one would load the cargo on to the ship. The release of a classification society, however, is not indefinitely valid. The seaworthiness of a ship must be checked and confirmed at regular intervals by an independent third party.
Even the current shipping operations are regulated right up to the last detail. “The shipping company, Ernst Russ, which was founded in 1893, is globally among the first companies that documented, in a fleet manual, all the tasks and duties individual crew members were required to perform at the port and the sea – long before corresponding international rules had been put in place,” says Frank Kunkel: “Gradually, special tasks and duties were defined for every ship type, which are now continually updated so that they correspond to the current status of the law, the basic rules and the ship handling technology.”
One of the most important rules is enshrined in the “International Security Management Code” (ISM Code). This code obliges all shipping companies:
- to ensure safe procedures for operating ships,
- to guarantee occupational safety and
- to identify and assess risks for their ships, their crew and for the environment and to institute security measures to prevent all known risks.
To that end, all shipping companies must develop a “Security Management System” (SMS), which must be documented in a “Security Management Manual”. As a rule, the manual contains procedural instructions and checklists that must be observed on board and ashore.
In addition, the ISM Code mandates securing two certificates:
- First, the “Document of Compliance” (DoC) stipulating in writing which ship types the shipping company may operate, e.g. tanker or container ships. This DoC is issued by the state whose flag the ships fly and whose laws must be observed.
- Secondly, the “Security Management Certificate” (SMC) stipulating that the shipping company and its on-board crew must operate the ship in conformity with the approved security concept.
Since July 2004, ships and port facilities worldwide are being subject to comprehensive security measures that were developed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to improve the maritime hazard prevention system. The “International Ship and Port Facility Security Code” (ISPS Code) mandates that every ship employ a specially trained “Ship Security Officer” (SSO) who, among other things, is tasked with inspecting the security measures on a regular basis, to train the crews on board, to report all security-relevant events as well as to coordinate the implementation of the hazard prevention plan with its counterpart onshore “Company Security Officer” (CSO) and the “Port Facility Security Officer” (PFSO).
In Constant Contact
“When I served as a nautical officer on board, only a fraction of today’s rules applied;” explains Frank Kunkel. “And when we could not establish radio contact, we were also unable to speak to our shipping company. When that happened, one just waited until radio communication was again established.” Today, when in need, communication transpires round the clock via email or via satellite telephone, all staff members ashore are always reachable, independent of whether it is weekend or Christmas. Ensuring constant access to the ship and a prompt response to different questions is also necessary in order to be able to survive under conditions of tough competition for suitable cargo.
“Both for the crew as also for the onshore technical manager it is a huge help if questions get a quick response and problems are solved collectively. Notwithstanding that, every technical manager visits his ships bi-annually in order to inspect if all rules have been implemented and followed, if the ship is in good condition and if the crew fulfils the quality requirements,” says Frank Kunkel. “Once a year, a marine superintendent conducts an inspection, to determine if all security measures have been observed – that is also mandated in the ISM regulations.”
Frank Kunkel, Managing Director of Ernst Russ Reederei GmbH & Co. KG
Following his graduation from high school with a German Abitur and his compulsory military service, Frank Kunkel underwent his professional training at the Deutsche See Reederei (DSR) in Rostock. He learned nautical craftsmanship from the very basics, worked as deckhand, sailor, and able seaman on bulkers, container and reefer ships. Subsequently, he graduated in nautical management, went out to the sea as nautical officer and after a certain period of accident-free navigation time, he was awarded the ship captain’s license. In 1994, he settled ashore and was responsible at Poseidon Schiffahrt GmbH in Hamburg for the operations of the OBO fleet (oil, bulk, ore), the bulkers and tankers. In 2009, he changed to the position of operation manager and subsequently of managing director of Scorship Navigation, which, since 2014, operates under the name of Mercator Navigation, and today is a subsidiary of Ernst Russ AG.
Efficient and Proactive
One of the most important tasks of technical management is to monitor the efficiency of the shipping operation. “That happens on the basis of the values that a captain conveys every day to the technical supervisor ashore,” explains Frank Kunkel. “That includes, for instance, the position of the ship, the fuel consumption, the wind force, the wind direction as well as the height of the waves. The current fuel economy data are compared with those that the manufacturer issues and with those that were determined on previous trips under comparable conditions. Deviations indicating an increase can signal a possible damage to the propeller or fouling on the hull. Since we take care of a large fleet, we also undertake cross-comparisons with other ships, in particular, the sister ships. That allows us to tell the charterers exactly how much fuel every ship consumes under what speed. The charterers can then themselves decide which speed would best suit their schedule or where the ships should save fuel.”
The constant communication between ship and land also helps in the event of disruptions. If, for instance, a ship reports that a pump does not work properly, the technical supervisor can check if similar types of disruptions had already occurred on other ships and how they had been remedied. He can give engineers on board corresponding instructions, he can specify important spare parts that every ship must have on board in the future, he can adjust maintenance intervals and budgets and in the most extreme case eliminate a particular manufacturer from the supplier list.
Right Place, Right Time
Supplying a ship with component parts, with stocks and supplies and food is a logistical undertaking with different degrees of difficulty. On the one hand, the buyers must procure these things in the desired quality and as far as possible at an attractive price. On the other hand, they must ensure that they are available at the right place at the right time. For container ships that travel on fixed routes, that usually does not pose any problems. It is difficult, however, with tankers that are involved in the spot market. It can happen here that the cargo is sold several times during a trip from the Arab Emirates to Europe. Instead of Rotterdam, the ship is required to dock at Le Havre and shortly before that destination the new destination is Immingham, in the Northeast of England. The window of time for delivery can shrink to a few hours. Thus, it is important to have a well-prepared, worldwide network of experienced buyers, suppliers, and agents on site.
General Ship Manager Ernst Russ
“The merger of HCI Capital AG and the König & Cie. Group as well as the takeover of Ernst Russ, the traditional shipping company, we have strengthened our maritime competence and extended it further, so that together with our joint venture and network partners we can cover the entire maritime value-added chain,” says Frank Kunkel. “That does not mean that we will now carry out all tasks ourselves. There is a range of sub-contractors with whom we have worked closely and successfully over many years – and we will also do that in the future. But for all ships that are now entrusted to us, we offer our services as a general ship managing company. In all matters, we are the first contact for our customers.” (Author: Jürgen W. Salomon)