Mike Corrigan, the ubiquitous leader of Interferry, has a broad base of energy and maritime industry experience, including his stint as CEO of BC Ferries. Corrigan shares with Maritime Reporter & Engineering News his thoughts on a broad range of issues facing the ferry industry: COVID-19, emerging international regulations, and yes, maritime training and education initiatives throughout the world ferry industry.
Looking back to your tenure atop BC Ferries, can you discuss this through a training and education lens?
At BC Ferries, safety and training was an integral part of my role and passion. I came in as the first chief operating officer in 2006 and had to restructure the whole safety program and safety culture. We took a blended learning approach, as when you’re trying to train 4,500 people across a vast geography, at 47 terminals and 36 ships, it was a huge challenge. I’m happy to report that near the end of my tenure, we had succeeded and, in fact, had won international awards for safety and for training.
What specific measures that were implemented?
We worked with Marine Learning Systems in looking at a blended approach to learning. With the number of employees we had spread across our system, and needing to get them all up from a familiarization standpoint to a new level of training, we had to think differently. It was obvious there was always going to be that component of classroom learning, hands-on learning, learning on the vessels, and learning at the terminals, but to get them up to where we needed to get be, we needed to, we incorporated (online) virtual training, which proved to be very successful. Ultimately, each company has to look at their unique geography and situation to determine what training systems are better for them.
I know the Interferry membership is diverse, from small operators in developing countries to the largest international fleets. Can you give an overview of the ‘state of training’ in the passenger ferry business today?
Since I joined the ferry industry it has increased tenfold. We’ve looked to the airline industry as the beacon in terms of what we needed to do, implementing many of their techniques and training modules. I’m proud to say today that the vast majority of ferry operators in the developed world are at or approaching where the airline industry is, and there’s been a lot of time, money and resources expended.
Can you give us an update and an overview of the pandemic’s impact on your industry as of today?
We’re looking at a 90% drop in passenger and vehicle traffic, but ferry operators (continue) providing lifeline and essential services to the communities they serve by moving cargo and precious goods while the rest of their ferries remain virtually empty. They are incurring huge losses to do the right thing and to continue to provide services to their communities, and these losses are unsustainable over the long-term. Operators need to have those ships at or near capacity to be able to turn a profit and stay in service over the long-term.
We understand that the IMO has taken an interest in domestic ferry safety. Can you give us an update on this, with insight on why would a local operator would feel compelled to follow non-obligatory international standards?
The ownership structure is such that you’ve have Interferry members that are extremely large – billion dollar companies – that are owned by private individuals. You’ve got other companies that are as large that our publicly or government-owned. So it’s a real hodgepodge of ownership structures at Interferry. But one thing’s for sure, everybody cares about safety. And when we talk about domestic ferry safety, we’re talking about safety that has not really been regulated by the IMO.
The International Maritime Organization, as the name would suggest, is about regulations for international marine travel. One thing we’ve pushed the IMO for is to get involved in domestic ferry safety as it pertains to the developing world. So each country is responsible for safety within its borders or boundaries. Countries like Canada, the U.S., the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, have top-tier safety systems (already) in place. We’re trying to get the rest of the world there through domestic ferry safety initiatives, and the developing world needs assistance in that. Interferry has provided that through some of our programs, but we pushed the IMO hard and now they’ve put on the agenda to develop model regulations that can be used to help developing countries get further up the safety curve much quicker. We are encouraged by that, and we want to be a big part of that solution going forward.
I’m not looking for you to play favorites, but when you look at operators in the developing world can you share some examples of companies that you see “doing it right” in terms of training, education and safety?
Absolutely. I think the best example that I could provide would be Archipelago Philippine Ferries. Chet and Mary Ann Pastrana, who are strong supporters of Interferry. In fact, Chet’s on our board of directors of Interferry. We’ve had a conference in Manila in 2016. Their training programs – not only for a developing country but for a developed world – are second to none. They’ve done an outstanding job of a blended learning approach and really have raised the bar exponentially on safety in the Asia-Pacific region. They’ve done that in conjunction with rebuilding their fleet too. I mean, there’s still many ferries that operate in the Philippines that are wooden boats, if you can believe that. But Chet and Mary Ann have rebuilt pretty much their entire fleet to world-class standards, and they’ve put a world-class safety program in place too.
Interferry also has a project in the Philippines around safety called FerrySafe One. We want to take that learning and help other countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, and ultimately Africa, to get further up the safety curve as fast as possible because it’s in everybody’s best interest. Interferry is the voice of the ferry industry worldwide, and we need to do everything in our power to improve safety around the world.
45th Annual Interferry Conference Fast Facts