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Port of Antwerp – Approving and Distributing Safety and Security Regulations

This is the third article in a series on Port of Antwerp, and how it uses Confluence and Comalatech apps to manage its documents and processes. 

In the last article we described how Port of Antwerp created an innovative training system for Confluence, using Comala Document Management. This time we’ll cover how the port uses approval processes to finalize their safety and security documents.

With an operation as large as Port of Antwerp, safety and security are critical. The captains and crews of the Port’s fleet of vessels need the latest regulations, and this information must be approved by the correct authority. This internal collection of regulations is known as the International Safety Management handbook (ISM) and must be monitored and approved by the Designated Person Ashore (DPA). The DPA is responsible for the operation of each vessel in the fleet, in particular with regards to safety and environmental protection.

Ivo Smet, a Service Desk Agent at the port, explains the importance of this approval, “There is a mandatory need to get approval from the DPA. From the moment a regulation is published, it becomes ‘the bible’, so to speak. And this actual approval comes through Comalatech’s app.”

These regulations cover a wide array of procedures. For example, when the Port’s ships enter the harbour they have to follow detailed instructions, like whether to keep left or right when approaching a lock, how much distance there must be between ships, and the speed limits in different areas. Policies also exist for emergency situations, as in the case of a fire or if a person falls overboard.

With billions of Euros, and the safety of their crews on the line, it’s vital that these regulations are available to the crews, and that they have gone through the proper approvals.

Managing Regulatory Documents with Confluence and Comalatech

In the past, most of these regulations were stored as Word documents. Since the ISM requires that crews always have the most recent version of a document on hand, keeping these files up-to-date was an added burden. Today, these regulations are stored in their own space within Port of Antwerp’s Confluence instance, which means that crews always have access to the latest version, and only the latest version. There are well over a hundred pages in this space, and the number is expected to double as onboarding continues. Some of these regulations still exist as Word documents attached to Confluence pages, but Port of Antwerp is converting them on an ongoing basis.

Like their knowledge base, this regulatory content uses Comala Publishing to copy content between Draft and Published spaces. Pages are created and edited in the restricted Draft space, and then copied over to the Published Space, which is accessible to all 1600+ employees, and used primarily by those operating tugs, dredgers and other ships in the fleet.

There are also two approval workflows used within the space which are built with Comala Document Management. The first workflow is a simple publishing process for changes that don’t require an approval – for example, a minor change to a parent page that doesn’t include any regulations itself. This workflow simply publishes the change from the Draft to the Published space inside Confluence.

The second workflow is more complex, and is used to officially approve regulations. New policies or changes to existing policies begin as a proposal, and the first approval confirms whether the changes make sense and should go ahead. Depending on the regulation in question, there can then be up to seven reviews by different departments, including legal, environmental, data protection and safety and health. When all of the necessary reviews have been made, the final authority, generally the DPA, gives the final approval.

Organizing Documents at the Space Level

With such a large number of important documents being worked on, Port of Antwerp also needed a way to get a clear vision of each pages’ status and manage workflows at the space level. For this, they built an overview page in Confluence where the space admin can see how many pages there are, what labels they have been assigned, and their status in any workflow that has been applied. This page uses Comala Lists, an app that allows users to organize, categorize and visualize pages using configurable lists. With Comala Lists, the space admin can easily add labels to individual pages from the overview page, which automatically assigns them the appropriate workflow. For example, adding the “no approval needed” label starts the simple workflow on that page.

By putting their important regulatory documents into Confluence, Port of Antwerp system administrators have made these pages easily accessible to their teams, while controlling versions so that only the latest approved policies are read. Workflows within the space efficiently ensure that regulations receive all the necessary reviews and Comala Lists allows the admins to easily manage these workflows.


Special thanks to Port of Antwerp's @Ivo_Smet and @Patrick_Vanhoof for sharing these use cases with us.



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