Palumbo Malta Shipyard has repaired or serviced more than 500 ships in the two years since it was taken over by the eponymous Neapolitan family, chief executive Antonio Palumbo told The Times Business this week.

The previous systems were not formalised or streamlined, and there were no written policies Clients have so far hailed from Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Turkey and even Venezuela, but with the yard formally obtaining ISO 9001 certification in the last few days, it is now even more competitive and able to bid for important jobs internationally. Clients will see improved service levels, with faster turnaround times and even more detailed documentation, Mr Palumbo said.

“We have managed to bring more than 500 ships to the yard during an international crisis thanks to our commitment not only to the operation but also to the Maltese economy,” Mr Palumbo said.

“The economic activity around each job sometimes surpasses the revenue directed to the yard. Do not forget that we are in start-up phase here. It has been an uphill struggle, but we are satisfied, and my son and I are committed to marketing the business personally. We will continue our strategy to build relationships with clients.”

Mr Palumbo pointed out the yard’s major current competitor is Turkey where clients are invoiced in dollars, which translates into a 30 per cent disadvantage for the local operation. But the chief executive said the disadvantage was overcome “with our professionalism and hard work” and the will to turn every job into opportunity.

Palumbo Malta obtained the ISO 9001 certification after a year-long process to strengthen its quality management systems. The project was championed by Patrick Parnis, a health and safety, environment and quality management systems consultant, who led a team which also included the yard’s general and security managers. The certification streamlines the Malta yard with Palumbo’s other operations in Naples and Messina. Mr Palumbo admitted the yard’s previous procedures were stringent but the recently implemented systems give the yard an updated outlook on process management, with increased flexibility.

“The previous systems were not formalised or streamlined, and there were no written policies,” Mr Parnis explained. “We identified the weaknesses and the strengths, and of course the opportunities, and named a team to manage the implementation.

We came up with a top management commitment with a signature on the quality policy. The management team then identified measurable objectives for each department.”

A quality manual and standard operating procedures were then drawn up. Some investment was required to acquire the required resources, including equipment, to support the measures’ implementation. In a final phase, the operations’ compliance with the newly installed policies was audited and presented to management. Confident with the results, Palumbo then invited external auditors to assess the new systems which were given the thumbs up after a five-day inspection.

“ISO 9001 is the start of a long journey of continuous improvement in quality management,” Mr Parnis said. “The ultimate objective is to have in place leaner, more structured and more efficient processes which will benefit the yard in the interantionla market. We are now streamlined with other Palumbo operations, and now aim to achieve the ISO 14001 green certification and the health and safety management system certification, the OHSAS 18001.”

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