Saturday Night Sea Fever, The Medallion Problem

 maritime safety news  Comments Off on Saturday Night Sea Fever, The Medallion Problem
Mar 192008

That medallion you might spot around the neck of a Filipino seafarer isn’t a demonstration of how much he liked Saturday Night Fever and it’s much more important than the St. Christopher often seen around the necks of westerners, and so many Filipinos are getting into trouble because of it that the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs has issued a warning about them.

The object is called an anting-anting and is supposed to protect the wearer from harm. It has its origins in the dim bits of history before the Spanish colonized the islands in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Traditionally they were prepared by babaylans, holy women or transgender males in a process that, for the most powerful anting-anting, involved a rotting fetus in a bamboo tube in a process I’m not going to write about over breakfast.

They were widely used during the Philippine War of Independence from 1898 to 1902, first against the Spanish, against whom there was some success, then against the Americans, where the Krag-Jorgensen rifle somewhat outgunned the modest anting-anting.
Today they are more likely to be made of metal and brought from vendors around the beautiful Quiapo church in Manila. Local informal healers in the provinces, however, use squares of paper with a special design drawn on them – something that was prescribed to me having fallen with some kind of fever in La Union, Luzon, back in the 1980s.

They can also be made of live bullets, which is why, very recently, a Filipino seafarer found himself in trouble at Changi Airport and is now on the Singapore authority’s watchlist. It is the seocnd known incident at Changi, and another seafarer fell afoul of the Brunei authorities.

The DFA warns seafarers: “against bringing live bullets or items made from prohibited, illegal, or controlled materials “

Doors Damage Digits

 Maritime Safety Forum  Comments Off on Doors Damage Digits
Feb 132008

When going through firedoors watch your fingers. Better still, make sure the door closure is properly adjusted in the first place, say the Marine Safety Forum.

Heavy Doors in Heavy Weather
A seafarer crushed one of his fingers in a fire door and had to be airlifted ashore for
treatment. The injured party (IP) was going to the laundry, accessing it through two fire doors. The weather was worsening, and at the time of the incident the sea state was 3.5 metres with the wind was blowing approximately 36 knots.

The IP opened the first door and stepped through. As he took his hand off the outside
handle to put it on the inside handle, the door started to shut suddenly and he was unable to hold it back. His finger was fractured when it was caught between the door and the door frame.

There are some misconceptions concerning the closure units on doors, the first of which is that they should close gently. This is not true and means adjustments are being made to them unnecessarily and, in most cases, incorrectly. Doors need to close securely, and on a rolling ship this will necessitate a fairly heavy closure. They should close slowly (closing speed) up until the last few inches or so and then close fairly heavily to ensure that they are closed securely (latching speed). It is important to remember this if you are approaching a closing door.

The second issue is the fact that people think the arm of the door should be adjusted in
order to adjust the closing speed. This is also incorrect as the arm is set up when the unit is fitted and should not need to be adjusted. There are many different types of closing units and the main ones are covered here. Basically, there are screws either at the end of the unit or at the front. There can be anything from two to five screws which are used to adjust the different closing cycles. These are:

Closing Speed
This is the speed that the door will initially close until it gets to the latching point which is, as stated previously, approximately 2-3 inches from the fully closed position. Generally, the screw is turned a full clockwise turn to slow the closing speed, and a full turn anticlockwise to speed this up.

Latching Speed
This is the speed that governs the final part of the closing mechanism which is the last few inches. Once again, it is a full turn clockwise for a slower latching speed and a full turn anti-clockwise for a faster latching speed.

Delay Action
Some door closures have what is known as a delay action. This is basically the delay from the time that the door gets to the latching position and the time when it closes. Turn the screw one full turn clockwise to increase the delay and one full turn anti-clockwise to reduce the delay time.

Back Check
Turn the back check adjusting valve clockwise to reduce the opening capacity. This
function is to avoid the door, handle or door closer coming in contact with a wall, etc.
This is a guide only and some may be on the top, some on the bottom or sides. With the
Dorma unit, you may need to remove the cover but it has nothing to do with the arm.

Root Causes:
• Faulty dampening system due to slight leak, making the door close more
violently than it should have.
• Worsening weather conditions. The vessel followed best practice by heading
into the weather, turning and running with the weather. This minimizes side-to-side
movement and allows the vessel to ‘ride’ the waves, but would have
increased the weight of doors when being used.
Actions Taken:
• Inspect all door closure units and report any faults
• Try to identify what types of units you have onboard and identify the adjusting
• Take into account weather conditions when moving about the vessel

Gangway Was Hard On Shoulder

 accident reporting  Comments Off on Gangway Was Hard On Shoulder
Feb 132008

As this alert from the MSF shows,  even the humble gangway can be hard on the shoulders:

Subject: Unsafe Gangway Leads to Injured Shoulder

During a crew change, the injured party (IP) was taking a petrol can down the gangway
when he tripped off the end due to the fact that the gangway was several inches off the
ground. Instinctively he put out his hand to stop himself but, unfortunately, he landed hard, hurting his shoulder. The IP was taken to the local hospital where he was diagnosed with a dislocated shoulder.

The vessel had been in port all night during which time the vessel had risen on the tide which left the gangway off the quay by several inches. This was checked throughout the night by the watchman, but the gangway was too large and heavy for one man to move on his own so he waited to inform the officer on the watch (OOW) in the morning. This he did, but as they were going out to have a look, the IP was already descending the gangway.

Lessons Learned:
The gangway should have been moved to its lower securing point so that it rested on the quay properly before it was used. The IP should not have descended an unsafe gangway; it should have been lowered before use.
Upper securing point
Lower securing point

Nov 172007

Yes, it’s a safety issue – there’s a link between morale and accidents, as we’ll see in the upcoming podcast on the Bow Mariner incident so we’d like to commend the UK’s National Maritime Museum in Cornwall for a rather nice initiative. From 17 November to 16 December visitors can design their own Christmas cards which Mission To Seafarers will distribute to mariners at sea in time for the festivities and there’s a competition for the kids. Leisure magazine Motor Boat And Yachting has some details here.

The initiative was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Christmas At Sea:


The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But ’twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So’s we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every ‘long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
“All hands to loose topgallant sails,” I heard the captain call.
“By the Lord, she’ll never stand it,” our first mate Jackson, cried.
…”It’s the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,” he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

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