Technical and operating manuals come under the microscope in the latest Feedback publication from the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme, CHIRP, and it doesn’t look good. It is now 10 years since CHIRP published its report Marine Operating & Maintenance Manuals – Are they good enough? The answer is still “No”.
In 2004 CHIRP noted “It is widely recognised the standard of manuals provided to seafarers varies greatly in terms of specificity, content, language and presentation and is often poor, leading to an increased risk of human error. The drivers in manual production are not necessarily the needs of the enduser , but mat be ‘defensive engineering’ and liability practices.” The situation is little changed.
A second engineer officer with 38 years’ experience serving onboard a two year old freight ferry sailing under XX classification tells Chirp: “Virtually every
technical manual onboard sub-standard in one or more ways as described below:
1. Manuals poorly translated from their original language. The information frequently being so brief that understanding is difficult, ambiguous or impossible.
2. Generic instructions which often do not relate specifically to the equipment fitted.
3. Maintenance schedules which make reference to tasks which are not applicable to the machinery fitted. For example “change the oil in the flexible coupling” when what the manual is actually referring to is the detuner which is lubricated from the main lub oil supply and therefore does not have any oil to change. (It is also likely that by the same token maintenance of some equipment that is fitted has been omitted).
4. Emergency procedures, which are belatedly found not to apply to the machinery fitted and no emergency procedures for the machinery which is fitted forcing the operator to make it up as he goes along.
5. Poor quality drawings and descriptions which lack detail or are generic in nature and not specific to the machinery fitted in the ship leaving one unsure if the job has been done correctly.
6. Operating parameters omitted, for example maximum exhaust temperatures.
7. Instructions which refer to tightening nuts or bolts but do not state the torque.
In fact the only area in which the manuals are thorough is in the excessive effort put into stating safety measures and disclaiming responsibility for accident or injury.”
Given the cost of the kit the manufacturers happily sell with these atrocious manuals and the cheapness today of using production techniques such as print-on-demand there is simply no excuse not to ensure that manuals do their job, which is to help the seafarer and ship stay safe and operate effectively an efficiently. No-one can complain that making manuals speific rather than general costs thousands of pounds.
A deacde ago CHIRP’s report recommended:
1. Manufacturers of equipment for safety critical marine applications across life saving, cargo operating, navigation, communications and engineering disciplines should provide operating and maintenance manuals to a common document standard “using a uniform layout as well as agreed terms, abbreviations and symbols for the correct use of such manuals by
2. The use of simplified technical vocabularies and icons should be encouraged. If used, reproductions of photographs and drawings should be of an adequate standardand documents should be available in an agreed number of languages.
3. A relevant authority should verify the compliance/standard of documentation at the design/approval/acceptance stage and audit its continued compliance thereafter.
4. Documents produced to the standard should be controlled and include notifications to manufacturers to accommodate through life operational changes e.g. a change of ownership, crew nationality, etc
5. Where integrated systems are fitted, a manual covering the entire system should be available. Particular attention should be paid to Failure Mode Effect Analysis for such systems.
6. Training regimes should be amended where necessary to ensure familiarity with the use of manuals produced to the standard. Thereafter, provided the seafarer continues to encounter manuals produced to the standard, efficient familiarisation and operation should be promoted.”
How much of this actually happened is open to speculation. What is known is that grotty manuals, which include SMS procedures, continue to contribute to casualties.
Generics – Are They Worth The Ships They’re Sinking?