Oct 272010

Assert for safety

Being safe is not just a matter of being alert to hazards but of being assertive when other’s actions put the vessel at risk says the North of England P&I club, NEPIA.

Examples cited in the club’s latest Signals newletter “include a shipper’s surveyor trying to show that a visibly wet bulk cargo is safe to load,’ says the club’s loss-prevention executive Andrew Kirkham. ‘Safety could be compromised and result in a casualty, for which the ship’s officers will ultimately be held responsible’.

According to Kirkham, the art of being confident in such situations is not to be aggressive, confrontational or rude but to be assertive. ‘Being assertive means being reasonable and, if appropriate, willing to compromise – but to do so seafarers must know their rights and keep to the facts.’

NEPIA points out that the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) chapter X1-2, regulation 8 makes it clear that ‘nothing’ shall constrain masters from taking a decision which – in their professional judgement – is necessary to maintain the safety and security of a ship. It further states that if masters find themselves in a conflict over security and safety, then it is their obligation to put safety first.

However, Kirkham says that to invoke their ‘right’, masters must have an overriding identified reason backed up by the facts. ‘Any compromises – such as conducting their own tests on a cargo in the absence of independent certification – must reflect the safest option to the satisfaction of the master’s professional judgement,’ he says.

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