Regulatory Database Ensures Vessel Documentation Compliance

March 28, 2019
By Erik Test

Freer Consulting recently took over the management of a “Regulatory Database” for a key maritime transportation client. This database tracks the expiration of important licenses and certifications for the company’s vessels. The maritime regulatory ecosystem is vast, with diverse state, Federal, and international authorities requiring certificates that expire on different dates and can have different renewal intervals. Non-compliance with these requirements can lead to heavy penalties, problems with insurability, or even the inability to legally operate a vessel. A past-due certification can also indicate that vessel surveys and inspections are behind, increasing the risk of health, safety, and environmental incidents.

Our client operates dozens of vessels across multiple business units, with each vessel potentially requiring dozens of certificates. Naturally, management was aware of the importance of a computerized tracking program, and they developed a database for this purpose. However, with the eventual departure of a key analyst, the company found itself struggling to find the bandwidth to use it properly. In our discussions with the company, the phrase “maintenance is a real chore” surfaced multiple times. We were delighted to have the opportunity to lessen this burdensome administrative overhead, allowing them to focus on their core business activities.

We got to work, digging into their Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) to see if it could be salvaged. The database was generally well-architected, but full of obsolete information and unnecessary complexity. Our task was to streamline the database while retaining key functionality, which we achieved despite a lack of formal database documentation. We trimmed away the bloat to reduce the number of objects (such as database tables) by 88% and the overall database size by 96%.

With a refurbished tool in place, we updated the database, locating and interpreting copies of documentation that were not yet recorded. In consultation with our client, we deduplicated the historical record set and cleaned up the related folders and files on their server, ensuring that we could easily refer to the original materials in the future. These efforts cut in half the number of trackable items on the database’s reports and allowed the client to begin addressing any expirations.

We also made other improvements, including:

  • A system of menus that allow reports on any business unit, vessel, and date combination.
  • Hyperlinks to the electronic versions of original documents.
  • A workflow for the discovery of new documents for inclusion in the database.
  • A tool that can instantly produce email-ready reports of upcoming document expirations.
  • Expansion of the regulatory database to include other time-sensitive events, such as the calibration of precision maintenance instruments.

With an authoritative, centralized database in place, our client can know that they comply with documentation requirements for all their assets. Beyond driving the day-to-day licensing and certification process, and revealing the insights needed for the budgeting process, databases like this enable proactive management metrics for any industry. Tracking and improving the percentage of regulatory documents that are expired, for example, shows that management is committed to operating in a safe and reputable manner.

We’re proud to be a small part of keeping the seas safe, and open for business!

If you would like to know more about how Freer Consulting can help you with regulatory compliance, contact us at 206-285-9044 or info@freerconsulting.com.