A day in the life series - An interview with Rosemont Yacht Management's DPA - Shelley Dowie

The IMO’s International Safety Management Code [ISM Code] requires all Companies subject to the ISM Code to appoint a Designated Person Ashore [DPA]. So what does that actually mean and what does their work involve? To answer that question we have interviewed Rosemont Yacht Management’s DPA – Shelley Dowie.

Can you explain the purpose of the ISM Code?
The ISM Code was developed following the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry accident in 1987 where 193 lives were lost due to capsizing after the bow door was left open.
The ISM Code is an international standard for the safe operation of ships and for pollution prevention. The ISM Code requires that safeguards be established against the safety and pollution risks involved in shipboard operations.
Part of the ISM Code requires companies to appoint a Designated Person Ashore [DPA]. The responsibility and authority of the DPA is to verify and monitor all safety and pollution prevention aspects of the operation of each yacht and ensuring that adequate resources and shore based support are provided. The DPA should have direct access to the highest level of management who shall provide the DPA with the necessary resources required to carry out their responsibilities.

How do you describe your role to others?
Essentially I have 4 key responsibilities; 1. To ensure the safe operation of each yacht under management; 2.  To monitor the safety and pollution prevention aspects of yacht operations; 3. To provide a link between the managing company and those persons on board and 4. To effectively implement the company’s safety management system both ashore and on board.

What attributes do you need to be a successful DPA?
A DPA’s skill set needs to be multifaceted. An in depth knowledge and understanding of the Company Safety Management System [SMS] and industry Codes and regulations are a pre-requisite. Then functional skills such strong leadership and communication; adaptability; applying logical and critical thinking; handling multiple tasks together with the ability to demonstrate meticulous attention to detail. Finally on an emotional level, it’s critical to possess the ability to listen; demonstrate tough empathy and motivate and encourage personnel both on board and ashore to commit to and implement the company’s safety culture.

What does a typical day look like?
My alarm goes off at 0630. I lay in bed until 0645 going through emails received overnight to see if there is anything urgent I need to take care of immediately. If there is nothing urgent I catch up on the news. Then it’s a shower and the essential first coffee!
Whether working from home, in a hotel room or on board one of our yachts, I am at my desk at 0730 with another coffee. At 0800 I log into our office meeting chat and check in with the other members of the Yacht Management team and make a plan for the day.
When in the office, I spend the day reviewing, analysing or updating reports including any defects, incidents, accidents or near misses that may have occurred on our yachts, reviewing new legislation and regulations, updating our Safety Management System and assisting the management team with any issues.
Most days I also receive calls from Captains or Chief Officers who want to talk through issues, need advice or need assistance with dispensations or approvals from Flag or Class.
I try to finish work around 1830. Evenings are spent catching up with friends and family and I try to get some time in our home gym or for a walk on the beach if it’s still light.
Typically I to go to bed by 2200, and then spend an hour catch up on news from the day and having a last check of emails that have come in from yachts or clients in other time zones. My phones and IPad are always next to my bed in case we have an emergency in the middle of the night.

What is your favourite part of your job?
No two days are the same; each day brings a new set of challenges and is extremely varied. I could be carrying out an audit on board one of our yachts one day, investigating an accident the next, meeting with Captains or reviewing risk assessments and manuals. Plans often change throughout the day so being adaptable and reprioritising is key.
The most rewarding part of my job is going on board a yacht and seeing first-hand how the crew are implementing our Safety Management System and taking time to sit down with them to discuss any ideas or concerns they may have.  

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Having to plan everyday life around being on call 24/7. I always have two phones on and either my laptop or iPad everywhere I go, so I can quickly access yachts’ data in case there is something urgent or an emergency to take care of. In the summer months, I can be seen out on the water, paddle boarding with my phones strapped to the board in a dry bag!

What is your most memorable day as DPA?
It’s hard to choose as there are many. The most significant was obtaining Rosemont’s first Document of Compliance which gave us the approval we required to provide Safety Management Services to commercial vessels >500 gross tonnes.

Have you ever had to deal with any emergency situations?
Yes, both whilst sailing on board and working ashore. During an emergency situation I take on the role of Incident Commander in the company’s Emergency Response Team and provide a direct link to the yacht. In these situations it is essential to be level headed and responsive as the situation can escalate quickly. Having also sailed on board, it has given me the ability to approach the situation from multiple perspectives.

What made you chose this career path?
I had previously sailed for 12 years as Relief Captain and Chief Officer on board yachts, so transferring to a shore based position in the same industry was natural progression. At sea, I had a passion for safety, security and compliance so becoming a DPA was well suited to my skill set.

What advice would you give someone considering being a DPA?
The role of DPA is extremely rewarding but also very demanding. If you are considering becoming a DPA, I would recommend starting out as Yacht Manager or Technical Manager. This way you can develop your knowledge of industry Codes and regulations and gain in-depth knowledge of the Safety Management System you will need to progress to DPA.