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 Bureaucracy overload calling for audit implosion: A sociological study of how the International Safety Management Code affects Norwegian coastal transport


​Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Thesis for the Degree of
Philosophiae Doctor
Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences
Department of Sociology and Political Science

Kristine Vedal Størkersen

​Safety management regulation with functional rules and internal controls offer potential for practical procedures. It makes companies primarily responsible for their own safety by implementing and internally controlling safety management systems, with regulators required only to audit the systems. A movement toward deregulation combined with controls are part of why our audit society has experienced an audit explosion (Power, 2007). Parallel, most research on safety management systems emphasizes that they are experienced as complicated for companies to implement, for operational personnel to use, and for auditors and regulators to

The International Safety Management (ISM) Code is the maritime industry’s safety management regulation with internal control. Earlier research has shown that the ISM Code does contribute to improved safety thinking and measures, but it also imposes administrative burdens and problematic procedures that could be improved with greater management commitment or seafarer involvement. The ISM Code has been mandatory in Norwegian coastal transport since 1998. During this period, personal injuries have decreased on transport vessels
along the Norwegian coast, while ship accidents have increased.

The ambiguities displayed by both research and empirical outcomes demonstrate the need for this dissertation, which examines the ISM Code’s influence on safety-related decision making in Norwegian coastal transport. It is a sociological qualitative, abductive, and explanatory case study. My coworkers and I have carried out field studies and interviewed 83 people in the Norwegian maritime industry—regulators, interest organization consultants, company management, and operational personnel. The vessels studied are Norwegian owned and registered, high-speed passenger vessels, bulk, general cargo, and live fish carriers operating along the Norwegian coast.

This study poses three research questions about how the ISM Code influences the Norwegian Maritime Authority, ship-owning company management, and seafarers. The research questions are explored in four published research articles through theories about safety, decision making, organizations, regulation, and accountability.

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