With the increasing number of regulations with regards to tasks carried out by the seafarers such as the entry of paperwork related to logs, checklists, forms and certifications, it is only natural that one would expect a boom in the amounts of paperwork in the shipping industry. While these tasks are not related to their primary duties on the ship, many seafarers’ opine that while they understand their importance, these administrative burdens of paperwork sometimes even overshadow their role and become burdensome. The time spent on these tasks would much rather be redirected towards more meaningful activities which are useful and part of their core duties- improving efficiency, quality and truly worthy of their time on board. 

A growing need (and want) of the hour 

Given the trends of rising numbers of people out at sea, one may expect a hike in the amount of paperwork but the reality is the stark opposite. Over the past decade, seafarers have been actively embracing the changes in how the shipping industry runs with the increasing digitisation across sectors. 

One of these aforementioned modifications that has often been highlighted is the reduction of paperwork in ship management- and it is believed to be both a need of the hour and a want amongst those in the industry. This is primarily owing to the large-scale acceptance of digital softwares for ship management. Once, a rather paper-exhaustive and wasteful process, ship management processes are now adopting digitisation more widely, thereby reducing paperwork. It is safe to say that these digital systems are far simpler in their use and a smarter way to reduce paperwork and reduce the dependency on manual workflow. 

Another reason that has nudged in the direction of reducing paperwork is the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most other sectors, the shipping industry saw disruptions and losses since the emergence of the pandemic and has been forced to make cuts in an effort to maximise profits. A seemingly bittersweet reality of this dire situation was an inclination towards digitisation at a sooner date than previously anticipated. This includes digital copies of documents replacing paper, processing paperwork online pre-arrival as well as a boom in online payments. 

A step in the right direction 

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has of late recognised the importance of reducing paperwork in ship management and are beginning to explore how they could be minimised. This would involve the complete elimination of obsolete paperwork and a thorough review on what paperwork is absolutely essential.