TOP Management Consultants is one of the newer members of the Rotterdam Maritime Services Community. But who are they and what kind of expertise do they have to offer the maritime industry? Here, Boudewijn Baan, coach, trainer, consultant, and co-owner of this unique maritime consultancy firm, elaborates.
For almost 35 years, TOP Management Consultants have been providing various Quality Assurance and Health, Safety, Environment and recently sustainability services in the field of shipping.
Founded in 1989, the company is intensively involved in providing consulting services to clients in the shipping industry and industrial clients. They help them set up and deploy various safety mechanisms, ranging from policy development and process optimization to operational aspects. At the same time, they have a keen focus on implementing and maintaining a sound safety culture and system management. Over the years, the scope and expertise of their services portfolio has gradually expanded and now includes helping clients to achieve their sustainability ambitions in an cost-efficient and economically responsible manner.
Boudewijn Baan: “For many clients, sustainability aspirations are fueled by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, they serve as the leading framework for the vast majority of companies.” However, Baan also believes that the market is not always fully aware about what the SDGs actually encompass, what is required, what that means, and what their potential impact is on the market position or the companies themselves, for that matter. “Take the terminology for instance, or what the SDGs are intended to achieve”, Baan continues. “Clients are not always able to answer such questions properly and are looking for insights.”
The road to success
According to TOP Management Consultants, change management plays a big role in whether or not a company will succeed in implementing its sustainability improvements. Baan: “It is important that every member of the organization is open to adapting and applying a different mindset. People really need to be aware of why change is needed. Ideally, it goes beyond a simple willingness to participate. Preferably, everybody involved embraces the company’s wish to provide more sustainable services or products and that calls for continuous reinforcement of the company’s ambitions, besides having the necessary knowledge, or at least access to it, of course.”
In addition, it is important for companies to visualize and understand the impact of certain choices. “Take the drive and development towards alternative fuels, for instance. Currently, there is no applicable legal framework, which means that it is difficult to predict potential implications of certain choices or investments related to alternative fuels.”
Compliance management helps to create insight into such areas. It opens the door to anticipating opportunities and risks in a timely and considered manner. “In a perfect world, it should be done with a risk-based approach. We focus on assessing risks related to processes and operational aspects so we can provide advice on how to mitigate them, advice aimed at helping to maintain or improve their competitive position by fine-tuning the mindset and culture in the organization. Everybody involved needs to be aware of why something might pose a risk and embrace the shared responsibility for preventing it becoming reality.”
Nowadays, we also give a lot of attention to training, so clients learn to gauge what they face. It is immensely helpful to convert a theoretical exercise into a (virtual) training session or simulation. TOP Management Consultants can offer realistic training situations in a virtual reality environment based on 360 degree recordings of the actual situation aboard the clients vessels.
“We try to keep our training programs as close as possible to real-life situations and standing practice on board ships, which enables us to bridge the gap between theoretical frames and the information required for practical application”, Baan adds. “Take hydrogen bunkering, for example: virtual training helps our clients to assess the practical implications, making it easier to draw up procedures, explain why they are important, and which risks are involved.” According to Baan, the trick is to look beyond policy development. The focus should be on bridging the gap between theoretical policies and real-life situations, because that makes it easier for professionals to grasp and comprehend what is being asked.
Moreover, the shipping industry needs to prepare for a huge body of new legislation. “This involves rules and regulations for the Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM), Ballast Water Treatment Systems (BWTS) and emissions reduction. The industry will need to deal with, and manage, many systems if it is to comply”, Baan continues. “Sometimes there is a discrepancy between IMO and EU ambitions – the EU wants to accelerate the introduction of the regulations – which will cause problems and invite ambiguity. Service providers such as TOP Management Consultants can help the industry to fully understand what is expected of it and how to mitigate possible risks.”
Born and raised in Flushing, Boudewijn Baan was inspired to follow his father’s footsteps and went into the shipping industry. Baan graduated from Flushing’s Maritime Academy and worked on various ships as an engineer before pursuing a degree in Marine Technology at Delft University of Technology.
Baan’s graduation project in Delft saw him involved in the newbuilding of Cruise Liner Westerdam, specifically in the options for implementing ISO 14001 standards in the Holland America Line. Those standards set out certifiable criteria for environmental management systems and are comparable with the IMO’s International Safety Management (ISM) code, but provide for environmental matters. After graduation, he joined the crew of the Oosterdam (the sister ship of the Westerdam) to validate his theoretic models. After piquing the company’s interest and firing its sustainability ambitions, he was even asked to present his findings to the Board in Seattle.
“These experiences laid the foundation for my current focus on, and expertise in, helping shipping companies improve their sustainability, going beyond policy management from a company perspective. It is all about how to connect theory and practical application”, Baan explains.