Bill Gallagher, President, International Registries, Inc. (IRI) explains how the Republic of the Marshall Islands Registry remains focused on progress and opportunity through the pandemic
With the change of the calendar has come renewed hope for an end to the difficulties of the pandemic. While last year presented us with a myriad of challenges, it also allowed us to capitalize on our strengths and usher in a new era of innovation.
Advances in sustainability and technology, some of which the industry has never seriously considered previously, have been realized during the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of December 2020, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) had conducted more than 900 remote inspections with the assistance of a wide variety of advanced tools. Finding new ways to conduct business, our team has:
- – tested and prototyped mobile applications;
- – facilitated electronic registrations and virtual closings; and
- – turned to technology as a tool for change.
I believe our ability to adapt is why the Marshall Islands remains a top performer in the 2020/2021 ICS Flag State Performance Table. COVID-19 has been a catalyst for change, and I expect to see much of the new technology, which has proven to be beneficial, integrated into our regular operations even as things normalize.
The pandemic has also brought into focus the critical situation of shipping’s human element. The world simply must recognize that we cannot fully bring the future of global trade to fruition without finding new ways to protect our crews. Joint efforts worldwide to protect crew members started in Spring 2020, and I am proud that the RMI was an early voice in the international call to identify seafarers as key workers. As of 25 January 2021, 52 of 174 IMO Member States have signed on to identify seafarers as essential or key workers. Continuing down this path is critical, and I challenge each of us to find ways to support government and industry action to protect seafarers, both now and for the future.
As hope for the end of the pandemic rises with the approval and global distribution of vaccines, the RMI Registry remains focused on progressing as an industry. We are well-poised to see a flourish of innovation and technological change beyond even what we have accomplished this year. We have learned much from the workarounds we used early in the pandemic, and we find ourselves more efficient in pioneering new solutions, techniques, and technology. I am proud that our shipowners have been aggressive in chasing fuel efficiency standards over the last several years and have been pushing for future development in this area.
RMI owners know that innovation is good for our business. Like our vessels, the RMI fleet does not remain stagnant. Twenty years ago, before we saw strong International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) enforcement, quality- and safety-conscious shipowners were working to reduce their environmental impact because it was good for business and it was the right thing to do. We see the same thing occurring today, as shipowners, shipyards, and the industry as a whole look to innovate ship propulsion in all areas to improve fuel and energy efficiency not only because it is good for our environment, but because it is good for business.
We are entering a season of real progress in our industry. As we take this major step forward, RMI owners know that our capable technical and fleet operations teams are with them, doing what we always have done, focusing on excellent customer service and high-quality solutions.