The International Maritime Organization (IMO) serves not only as an important regulatory body for our industry, but also as a place where various sectors of the industry can meet, discuss, and develop policy to guide the future of international shipping. To better serve that side of IMO’s role, Robert Gale, a Regulatory Specialist for IRI based in London has accepted a six-month appointment to the IMO as the Senior Professional Officer for operational safety and the human element. Gale was also appointed Chair of the navigation working group to the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue. Gale has been contracted to work primarily on maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS), e-navigation, and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, areas where he has extensive experience and background.
In 2017, the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee agreed to determine how the safe, secure, and environmentally sound operation of MASS might be introduced into IMO instruments, in particular, the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREG). MASS is a topic that the RMI has been pursuing actively, and Gale has previously served as member of the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ (RMI’s) delegation to the MASS working group. The RMI is currently preparing a submission paper on MASS to be presented to the working group in September which is an analysis of COLREG and how it will be affected by MASS.
Prior to joining IRI Gale served as a Marine Safety Officer managing ships worldwide from a safety and environmental perspective. He has also served as an instructor on the use of digital navigation, and as a senior officer aboard several vessels. His hands-on experience aboard vessels, along with his experience in regulatory and education, give him unique experience that influences his role in helping to shape IMO policy. He believes technology can provide a greater level of safety in the industry. “Technology can reduce the risks associated with the dull, dangerous, and dirty jobs aboard vessels,” said Gale. “The push to use technology is not to replace seafarers, but rather to make their jobs safer and easier. It is important for us to slow down and really study how this type of technology can be implemented correctly to improve safety and quality aboard ships.”
Gale was detailed to the IMO in late June after being recognized by IMO colleagues for his experience and knowledge in these areas. “I enjoy being involved in policy, and the IMO is the highest regulator in the maritime industry,” Gale said. “As a former merchant navy deck officer, I am aware of the issues at sea, and ever since I started working in a shoreside position, I have strived to improve the lives of seafarers.”
As a Regulatory Affairs Specialist at IRI, Gale worked on various projects to identify IMO regulations as they developed. This is the first time a secondment like this has been requested where a person has been detailed to assist with shaping IMO policy.