Aug 192008

MAIB’s report on the Figaro incident in December 2007 in which an accidental activation of the ship’s CO2 smothering system led to the vessel losing propulsion and electrical power in rough weather, sending it drifting toward Wolf Rock off the southern English coast, reads almost like an adventure story full of derring-do and not a little personal courage and is well worth the read.

All the same, it shouldn’t have happened. Says MAIB: “The investigation identified that the maintenance instructions for the CO2 system were contradictory and vulnerable to misinterpretation. The crew of Figaro were unfamiliar with the equipment and were unable to recognise the problem that occurred during the routine test, or realise the risk posed by leaving the system in an unstable condition. The incident also highlighted some areas where ETV procedures could be improved to help maintain the successful reputation that this service has gained.” Continue reading »

May 252008

“No one in their right mind would put a multi-million dollar asset – their ship and its ability to earn (and lose) money – in the care of individuals who were anything other than competent. Yet that is exactly what is happening, and on an ever increasing scale in the shipping industry,” warns Captain Robert Rayner, president and CEO of IDESS Interactive Technologies, in the latest issue of the American P&I Club‘s publication Currents.

Captain Rayner is a leading, often outspoken, proponent of competency assurance, something that’s a screamingly obvious solution to reducing maritime incidents, enhancing safety and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of vessel operations. Perhaps because it’s so obvious, it’s been largely ignored by the industry.

His article, Competent Crews And The Exercise of Due Diligence, is a good introduction to competency assessment, measuring human performance in the workplace.

Says Rayner: ” Competence is widely perceived to be an immutable constant, when in fact it is a dynamic variable, with-in both companies and individuals. We do not distinguish between a second officer who has for the last two years been serving on a small product tanker that transits the Singapore Straits every three weeks, and a second officer serving on VLCC that is on a regular run between Ras al Ju’aymah and Europort for the same period.

“It is surely reasonable and indeed sensible that competence be periodically verified, by assessment at the individual level, particularly when defined as Safety Critical or Mission Critical, or when there are changes in policy, equipment, or procedures.

“However, only a minority ship owners and managers operate competency management systems that would provide even the basic requirement for assessing workplace performance against international standards.”

Seafarers leave colleges and training centres with what we believe to be newly acquired knowledge and skills, and impressive certificates. But how do we know if the new knowledge and skill is transferred to the workplace. Indeed, is the training and education received even applicable to the new operating conditions that they will be work ing in. Being able to answer that question is crucial in determining if a ship’s crew have the right knowledge, skills and attitudes required for the jobs they have to do.”

MAC’s experience is that competency, or lack of it, is evident in a good number of maritime incidents, of which The Case Of The Cygnet’s Kiss’ is one among many, too many, examples. Given the temptation, and, indeed, the pressure to lower standards to offset the shortage of officers, competency assurance, the measuring of human performance in the workplace, is critical to ensuring that seafarers can do what their certificates say they can do: keep themselves alive and their ships safe.

Read Captain Rayners article here.