Best practice for Environmental Compliance

Pre-audit training: Train the trainer online
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By Kate Kelley

The maritime industry is acutely focused on operational efficiency, safety and environmental management. Most vessel owners, operators and ship management companies view compliance in these areas as more than just good business practice. Prioritising compliance is essential as vessels are routinely subject to regular Port State Control (PSC) inspections, class surveys and third-party audits to ensure they are complying with international and domestic environmental and safety regulations. Being out of compliance can result in significant fines and reputational damage and, at a minimum, can lead to costly downtime while violations are resolved.

Environmental compliance, particularly within the patchwork of U.S. federal, state and local requirements, is an ongoing challenge. A company’s strategy to meet this challenge should include adoption of a comprehensive environmental compliance programme as well as pre-inspection audits to verify these practices are being implemented. These pre-inspection audits should go beyond basic compliance checks to explain the rationale for each requirement. They should also identify less obvious problems that might result in a violation or prolonged inspection.

To help address this need, Witt O’Brien’s has developed a pre-audit training that is a multi-part “train the trainer” curriculum aimed at covering the essential aspects of a shipboard audit from a PSC inspector’s perspective. With Covid-19 restrictions in mind, the course was developed using digital tools to allow for online access rather than a traditional in-person course. The course begins with a case study review of recent noteworthy MARPOL violations observed by our team, along with our shipboard compliance experts’ first-hand observations of both common and less apparent compliance issues.

The second session takes a deeper dive into the shipboard environmental audit, and is split into two modules:

  • A documentation review to outline all the ships records that a PSC inspector examines, as well as a tutorial on how to evaluate each record to ensure it is in order.
  • A simulated ship walk-through that follows a comprehensive checklist developed specifically to simulate a PSC inspection, including recommendations on identifying red flags or potential compliance issues.

The training is wrapped up with a roundtable workshop that connects the course content back to the company’s environmental management goals and garners participant feedback to fine tune and evolve the curriculum.

Well-structured training such as this will enhance shipboard environmental audits and allow a company’s auditors to better understand the perspective of a PSC inspector. By adopting such training, companies can track their programme effectiveness against compliance audit outcomes and eventually against improvements in overall operational efficiency, safety and performance.

For more information on this course, please contact Witt O’Brien’s at

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