08 July 2021 – Leading marine operations software provider, Helm Operations, is looking to make waves in the crew management and compliance space with the launch of Helm CONNECT Work Rest, a new set of tools to help companies combat crew fatigue and ensure rest time compliance across their fleets by allowing them to efficiently manage onboard work schedules from a single screen. Focused on freeing busy crews from unnecessary paperwork and overly complex Excel sheets, Helm promises the new tool will let companies plan, forecast, and manage their work rest easily, guaranteeing their crew rest times are compliant with STCW rules or their own corporate standards—all in just three clicks.
Properly tracking crew work and rest hours is an imperative issue in the global maritime industry, where an estimated 75 percent of liability loss is caused by human error, primarily linked to fatigue. In response to these challenges, regulators have implemented ever more stringent work-rest tracking requirements, including ILO 180, the IMO’s STCW 2010 Manila Amendments, MLC 2013, and the US’s Subchapter M among a flurry of other national regulations. These rules require captains and operators to carefully manage crew shifts in an effort to manage fatigue and minimize accidents.
This is a challenging task given the dynamic nature of work onboard vessels and in ports, says Helm’s Steve Robertson, who helped lead the development of Helm CONNECT Work Rest alongside Product Manager, Shawn Verhagen.
“Vessel and port operations are highly complex, and crew often pick up additional work or participate in drills that delay or temporarily reduce their rest time,” says Mr. Robertson. “This makes tracking rest time and forecasting who is allowed to work a difficult task with significant repercussions, including increased risk of injuries, casualties, and liability, as well as increased oversight from regulators.”
In addition, he says, the industry’s tools are often not up to the task. “During our research, we found that many companies still depend on paper logs or complex Excel sheets to manage work rest. Even in 2021, much of the industry is still using tools from 1984,” says Mr. Robertson. “The tedious and error-prone nature of recording work rest information on paper or in Excel means companies run the risk of not properly tracking rolling 24-hour periods of time, pencil whipping, or worse, not tracking their hours at all. All of these can lead to non-compliance, putting both crew safety and the company’s reputation at risk. ”
When it came to building Helm CONNECT Work Rest, Product Manager Shawn Verhagen had a clear vision. “Our goal in building Helm CONNECT Work Rest,” says Mr. Verhagen, “was to take all those risks away and make configuring rest time rules, scheduling crew, and tracking, and forecasting work and rest time as simple as possible. The beauty of modern software that is we can take these surprisingly complex and difficult tasks, and turn them into a simple, visual workflow that ensures compliance in just three clicks. It’s a process that every mariner can do quickly, easily, and safely.”
Built based on direct feedback from captains, crews, and regulators, Helm CONNECT Work Rest makes it easy for anyone—even the most software-averse captain—to easily track and prove compliance with regulations. “In the case of the STCW rules, for example, we can apply them to a work schedule with a single click, making it easy for captains to see exactly what shifts their crews can and cannot work in order to stay compliant with international regulations,” says Mr. Verhagen.
The new product further combines that ease of use with deeper functionality to ensure compliance, including easy configuration of rest time rules and crew schedules, a complete change log for auditability, use of 24-hour rolling periods, and even easy printing and reporting in USCG and other regulator formats.
These features are already being welcomed by the industry, which has often struggled to make work-rest tracking both easy and functional for its operations. Bill Sullivan, Manager of Regulatory Compliance and Vessel Repair at Donjon Marine, echoes Robertson and Verhagen and reflects on how Work Rest has changed their operations. ”At Donjon, we used to prove STCW compliance by completing a daily task using a paper-based work rest template. Although it appeased the auditors, it seemed tedious and prone to ‘pencil whipping’. Helm CONNECT Work Rest has made my job easier by allowing me to create rules for compliance that will notify me when employees are not getting enough rest, ensuring we stay compliant and maintain a healthy workforce.”
The Work Rest module being rolled out today is just one of several new products being launched by Helm Operations, as it continues to expand internationally and into larger and more complex fleet operations. “What we’re seeing both in the US and in the shipping market globally,” says Helm Operations CEO Nolan Barclay, “is that the reliance on paper and legacy software-based approaches is causing the maritime industry to lag behind many other industries, with significant consequences for shipping companies and operators. Our vision for Helm CONNECT has always been to move the maritime software market from simply serving as systems of record to systems that actively optimize and simplify workflows for crews and operations managers. When we combine simplicity for the crew with a depth of functionality to help operators streamline and optimize their operations, as we have with Helm CONNECT Work Rest, then we can see the real transformation that’s possible in our industry.”
Marketing Coordinator, Helm Operations
About Helm Operations
Helm Operations is the developer behind the world’s fastest-growing marine operations platform, Helm CONNECT, which provides vessel dispatch and billing, maintenance, compliance, and personnel management to some 250 companies and more than 4500 assets in over 30 countries worldwide.