11 October 2022

Five things you need to know about vetting

Following on from our webinar earlier this year on vetting best practice, our Key Account Manager Bryher Bailey looks at common misconceptions in vetting, clarifications on how to use our Safety Score, when to vet and what best practice looks like.


1. A Safety Score of three or higher is not the same as a vet recommendation of ‘acceptable’

Safety Scores are an excellent initial indicator of a vessel’s historical performance based on available data.

However, where the Safety Score is an indicator based on data available to us at that moment, our vetting service provides a more comprehensive review, and is used by organisations to support their management of safety, environmental and social responsibility risks related to vessels in which they have an interest.

The service involves a detailed review of more than 50 different sources of information, drilling down into incidents and Port State Control (PSC) performance. It also considers operator performance in more detail, including crew welfare and crucially, applies experienced analysis to identify any possible contradictions and potential issues which affect the risk associated with employing that vessel.

RightShip reviews over 15,000 PSC reports, 2,000 incidents, and 5,600 feedback reports each year. These are all component parts of a vessel’s Safety Score and can influence the score itself, the outcome of a vet, or both. Reviewing a ‘close out’ report requires the expertise of our maritime team, and in more complex cases, requires multiple people’s attention.

It follows therefore that viewing a Safety Score alone is not meaningful marine assurance, nor is it a substitute for a full vet. Sometimes companies feel that a policy of ‘Safety Score of 3 or above’ is ‘proof’ that a ship is fit to charter. But this is not how the Safety Score was designed to be used.



2. Vessels with a Safety Score of 3, 4 or 5 should be vetted

Any vessel with a Safety Score of 1 to 5 could be recommended at the end of the full vetting process. Whether the vessel is recommended depends on the baseline RightShip standard, plus the risk profile of the customer, as many of RightShip’s vetting customers have customer specific vetting rules.

Whilst it is more likely that vessels with a score of 1 or 2 will require further investigation and / or an inspection during a vet, it should not be taken as read that vessels with these scores will automatically fail. Equally, a vessel that shows an indicative Safety Score of 3 on our platform could be found to have a previously unrecorded detention or incident during a vet, which could reduce the score to a 2 or even a 1 and potentially trigger the need for an inspection.

Imagine being a charterer considering two vessels for employment. The first vessel shows a Safety Score of 1 because the rule SS1-9 ‘Vessel with Cat-A incident in 12 months’ has been triggered. It could be that, during the vetting process, the investigation report and supporting evidence is reviewed by the RightShip team, and the incident is found to fit a different level of incident category. Reviewing and closing this incident as part of the vet could mean the vessel’s score then is updated.

Equally, a second vessel could be showing an indicative score of 3 out of 5, but a recent PSC report includes a detention. This could bring that vessel’s detention total to two detentions in 24 months, causing SS2-1 to trigger.

Conducting a vet not only ensures the vessel is reviewed by our maritime experts, but also holds up the vessel’s performance against key risk management criteria – either the baseline used by RightShip, or specific criteria required by each organisation.



3. We don’t just vet and inspect bulkers – we also vet tankers

Our vetting teams are based in Melbourne, Houston, and London. Across the teams, we combine over 600 years' experience in shipping. These teams process over 40,000 vets each year, over a third for tankers. Naturally, we ensure our team is from a diverse background, including master mariners and marine engineers.

Inspections are an extremely important part of the due diligence process. For tankers, gas carriers and barges, we review Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF)’s Ship Inspection Reports (SIRE) reports, provided by our members via the OCIMF’s portal. We can’t accept SIRE reports unless they are provided by OCIMF members – one of the small steps we take to ensure the highest level of reliability during our tanker vets.

To further support our charterers, we are introducing a screening product which allows our customers to provide a faster, though less comprehensive, risk management process for cargo interests only and back-to-back trades, improving our service for the tanker market.



4. Vessels that are acceptable following one vet, might not be acceptable at the next

We know we’re acting as our customers’ in-house vetting or marine assurance team, and so where requested, we work to apply additional layers of vetting criteria above the RightShip baseline. This means many charterers effectively use their own customer specific criteria. Sometimes, what is acceptable to one charterer may not be acceptable to another.

For instance, a charterer may have a seasonal trade route to polar regions. Their bespoke criteria means that during that specific period only certain vessels meet their criteria.

Another example might be that a customer imposes an upper age limit of 12 years for vessels, whereas our baseline criteria state a vessel over the age of 14 years must have a valid RightShip inspection (excluding tankers). This means that a vessel meeting the baseline criteria for most RightShip vets doesn’t meet the criteria for the specific charterer with the 12-year upper age limit.

We also work with customers who include terminal compatibility as an area of their vetting requirements, which means they like to see specific terminal questionnaires as part of these vets. This helps explain why an owner saying their vessel is acceptable to RightShip during chartering negotiations shouldn’t be taken at face value. It may not be acceptable to specific risk tolerances, and the vet being referred to may be some months old and no longer accurate.



5. What is best practice for monitoring vessels following a positive vetting outcome?

Best practice looks like this: vetting is not just a one-off event. Our vetting recommendation is on a voyage-by-voyage basis – we strongly recommend our members to vet vessels each time they sail, to get the most accurate vetting outcome.

For a period charter, the risk associated with a vessel or fleet is elevated. At the beginning of the charter period, your ship manager might appear to have the vessel performing well. However, 18 months down the line, the same vessel might be degrading, the manager might have changed crewing agency, have deferred maintenance, or the vessel might have been turned away by a port or terminal.

As such, we would recommend that a period charterer with a keen interest in maintaining a healthy performance conducts regular vets of those vessels. Some of our members choose to vet for every voyage, some once a month. Our platform functionality allows users to monitor their vetted vessels via the ‘Lists & Alerts’ function. We strongly encourage the charterers we work with to do this.

The system generates notifications if, or when, a vessel’s Safety Score, GHG Rating or management companies change, or if an adverse event occurs on board a ship, such as a PSC inspection or incident. This means that customers can remain confident the vessel they have chosen to use is still meeting the highest standards of vetting, even while it’s mid-journey.

For time-charterers, or prior to a vessel being financed, taken into management or insured, we have customers who conduct full vets to ensure they are adopting the heathiest possible approach to risk management.

We enjoy close contact with our customers, often on an almost daily basis, encouraging them to communicate with us when they have specific questions, need assistance, to tell us about changes in their shipping activities or the new businesses they might have. This is so we can continue to refine and update their vetting criteria to continue addressing their needs.

However, we can always take on more feedback. So, if you’ve read this article and it’s been helpful, or if there’s more you’d like to know, please contact your key account managers and share your opinion about our platform and processes. We believe there’s always room to improve, and your feedback is the most valuable way for us to get better at what we do – and to work towards our aim of zero harm in the maritime industry.

You can find out more about vessel vetting on our website.

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