How Univan Ship Management is making plans for a sustainable future

After joining IMPA ACT, a responsible supply chain management programme for the shipping industry, third-party ship management services provider Univan explains why it’s shifting its future business focus towards sustainability…
How Univan Ship Management is making plans for a sustainable future

Univan Ship Management, a leading provider of third-party ship management services, has become the latest company to join the IMPA ACT, IMPA’s responsible supply chain management programme.

The company has joined the likes of Wilhelmsen Ship Management, Thome, D/S Norden and J. Lauritzen in committing to IMPA’s industry-leading initiative, in what is a clear sign of a shift towards a sustainable future for the marine supply chain.

Marine Trader magazine spoke to Antony Cowie, Univan’s Head of Legal & Insurance, to talk about why Univan has committed to the IMPA ACT, how the company will benefit from it and why he thinks this is a sign of the times for the industry.

Why have you chosen to join the IMPA ACT?

Univan Ship Management (Univan), like most businesses in the shipping sector, is operating in an increasingly regulated environment and that is not something that is going to change. In recent years, we have seen the enactment of legislation seeking to protect the environment, to improve health and safety at work, to promote the fair treatment of workers and to prevent and discourage corruption. At the heart of this legislation, and indeed all legislation and regulation, is social responsibility. Legislation imposes requirements that ensure that entities essentially conduct themselves in a socially responsible manner.

We view the IMPA ACT as a tool that will enable us to not only adhere to the black letter law, but to also strive for and achieve best practice and corporate social responsibility in the context of marine procurement, reaching beyond prescriptive legislative requirements. We see the IMPA ACT as facilitating our committed objective to engage in sustainable, environmentally friendly, ethically sound procurement activities opposite reputable third party suppliers sharing our corporate and social values.

How will joining the IMPA ACT change the way you work?

Univan is currently involved in a range of initiatives aimed at modernising and improving our efficiency and transparency as an organisation. An important element in any initiative is the development and implementation of approachable and user friendly systems, so that those responsible for the initiative, working with the systems on a day-to-day basis, are working efficiently and driving the initiative forward. The IMPA ACT online platform provides exactly that – an approachable system facilitating the exchange of valuable vendor information that will in time no doubt be a critical factor in our decision-making on procurement.

Do you have any existing CSR/RSCM policies? How long have you been working with them and what have you achieved with them so far?

Many of the initiatives I refer to in the paragraph above are CSR focused. Some are the consequence of the increased legislation that all companies in the shipping sector are currently facing, some are the result of our analysis and forecast of the market going forward and the risk management, compliance and broader corporate social responsibility landscape that we see unfolding in the coming years. We are looking to identify risks and exposure before they develop or are legislated for, so that we are doing more than the absolute minimum and are ahead of the curve.

The focus of our CSR policies and activities tends to be on longer term projects that address themes that are enduring. That said, we have been involved in numerous focused projects with more specific philanthropic objectives. For example, we have very strong ties with the seafaring communities in the Philippines and in the aftermath of Typhon Hagupit in 2014 we set up a fund to aid our seafarers and their families in their time of need. Whilst the bigger picture CSR initiatives and projects are important to our customers, to Univan, to the shipping industry and to society at large, it is critical to take an inward glance at those people fundamental to our success story and to address their critical needs as and when they arise – a re-focusing of priorities.

How many clients have you engaged with (using IMPA ACT/RSCM policies) so far? What has their reaction been?

Univan has approached a number of its key suppliers proposing partnership in the context of the IMPA ACT project and the response has been unanimously positive. All of those approached have expressed their interest in the project and we are now working towards committing as many of them to the initiative as possible. It comes as no surprise to us that quality counterparties are expressing genuine interest in the IMPA ACT – it is, after all, an initiative that provides a forum for the promotion of reputable suppliers to first class ship owners, operators and managers. Suppliers committed to socially responsible and ethical business conduct, are bound to embrace the IMPA ACT and to welcome the opportunity to be recommended as a business that shares values with the IMPA ACT’s members.

Long term, what benefit do you see IMPA ACT having on Univan and the wider industry?

Univan’s primary concern in day-to-day operations is safety. Shipping is essentially industry at sea and is fraught with risk – risk of injury to seafarers, risk of damage to vessels, risk of polluting the environment. A very significant part of our resources at Univan is committed to mitigating actual and perceived risks that arise, or may arise, in the course of providing our services and engaging in business. The IMPA ACT initiative focuses on a key area of risk management – the provision of quality goods and services to owners, vessels and crews from reputable suppliers.

Injury to seafarers, damage to a vessel or pollution events can all be the result of the failure of sub-standard goods or equipment provided through questionable suppliers. The same applies to services. Where services are provided by entities or persons without adequate training, qualifications or experience, we risk the safety of the crew, the vessel and potentially innocent third parties. The provision of poor equipment repair services, the inadequate handling of medical cases, the substandard assessment of safety on board and the provision of poor quality stores – are all examples of circumstances that might lead to an event compromising safety.

The IMPA ACT effectively provides a soft-auditing forum for members to assess potential suppliers in the procurement chain. Through recommendations from other respected members of the IMPA ACT community, we should be able to identify suppliers reputed for providing first class goods and services.  By engaging with such suppliers, we fulfill our primary objective: Safety. The IMPA ACT will have facilitated our achievement of that primary and essential objective.

From a business point of view, the IMPA ACT promotes a level playing field in terms of supply chain management and procurement. If suppliers wish to be recommended as counterparties that significant operators in shipping should do business with, they will have to fulfill minimum standards with regard to their business policies, values and conduct. The more suppliers subscribing to an approach that sees them achieving this status in the eyes of the shipping industry’s elite, the more likely other suppliers are to aspire to those standards. The snowball effect will likely lead to less disparate standards in the sector over time.

You're the second major shipping company to sign up in recent months. Is this is a sign of a shifting attitude in the shipping industry?

The shipping industry has to re-assess its priorities in an increasingly transparent business environment. The internet and connectivity have compelled openness, whether the shipping industry likes it or not. Businesses intent on growing and prospering in future, will not only have to provide first class services, but must also actively strive to promote ethical practice and safeguard broader societal values.

To ensure that we at Univan provide the best possible service to our customers without compromising our values and standards, we need effective tools at our disposal  – the IMPA ACT is just that. To maintain our reputation as a first class provider of third party technical management services, we believe that we must be two steps ahead of the “white-hot” issues of the day. The various initiatives that we are undertaking at present, crucially including the IMPA ACT, are focused on ensuring that Univan achieves that goal.

So, yes, there is a shifting attitude in the shipping industry and we expect to see an elevation in the standards of good practice with the support of reputable ship owners, operators and managers who are proponents of IMPA and the IMPA ACT initiative.

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by Tom Holmes

Marine Trader Editor

Tom Holmes is the Editor of Marine Trader and, the official publications of the International Marine Purchasing Association (IMPA). To discuss news, features or contributing to Marine Trader please get in touch.

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