It is very important to understand the importance of the shipboard communications at all levels in order to achieve safe and efficient ship operation. What is communication? Here is one possible definition – transferring signals and messages from one person to another with the purpose of creating an understanding, a particular meaning or a certain reaction from the other person. If no reaction is received, we are talking about one-way communication.
According to statistics, as much as 70-80% of incidents and accidents at sea can be traced back to some kind of communication problem including those between personnel on the bridge because of different culture, native language, age, experience etc., between bridge and engine personnel, ship and tugs, ship and VTS, ship and ship owner/operator, ship and authorities.
Have you noticed how boats, both large and small, tend to be painted a different color under the water? Most often, it is red but actually nowadays you can get any color you like. The reason for it goes back to the earliest days of sailing ships. Back in those days wooden sailing ships would slowly plot around the world. A combination of their slow speed and rough hull made them an ideal breeding ground for underwater growth. Just take a look under a pier and you will see the sort of marine growth these ships used to suffer. We are talking barnacles, worms, seaweed, and things like that, so that is the issue.
Well, all of these things have negative impacts on ships over time. You get the obvious of things like damage to the hull itself due to worms and the actual growth; then you get issues like the additional weight that they have to carry around and reduction in maximum speed due to the extra drag. Of course, on sailing vessels that drag-on weight would impact their ability to sail upwind which would yet further reduce their efficiency. What you need is a way to stop marine life from growing on the bottom of the hull and this is where antifouling comes in.
Antifouling is just a system designed to reduce fouling by animal and plant life on the underwater sections of a boat or a ship. Early solutions were to place copper sheets on the hulls of ships. The “Cutty Sark” is a great example of this. The primary purpose of the copper sheets was actually to stop worms eating their way through wooden hulls. A secondary benefit is that the copper would reduce the growth of plant life.
Of course, as wooden hulls were replaced by iron, worm issue did reduce but they have never been eliminated. Just look at the leisure industry today and you will still see a plenty of wooden hulls around, and of course regardless of its construction materials we still have the same old issue of drag caused by the growth of plant life is probably more important now to keep that under control, considering the costs of fuel and efficiency savings on long passages.
We still need antifouling to stop a combination of worms, barnacles and weed from growing on the underside of the hulls but instead of using the old technique of copper sheets we now use a form of paint. The subject paint works on the same principle and actually still uses copper as a biocide though it is mostly cuprous oxide mixed with the paint rather than copper sheets.
It is the natural red color of those copper oxides that has led to the traditional red color of antifouling. Modern antifouling systems can be broken into two broad categories – hard and soft. Soft coatings are designed to wear off over time continuously exposing fresh biocides as the outer layer of the paint wears off. Hard coatings, on the other hand, are designed to be lot more durable. They are meant to last a lot longer. As the biocides are released the durable layer of paint remains but the biocides contained in the outermost layer do get used up.
Both systems work on the same principle. They gradually release biocides commonly based on the chemical element copper. The difference is that the soft coatings allow the paint to flake off as well. As you can imagine, there are environmental considerations – antifouling releases biocides and possibly paint into the environment. That is one reason a lot of ports do not allow cleaning the hulls. They do not want the extra dose of biocides and paint released by the rubbing process.
One of the other options is to use the normal hardware and paint on the other side of the hull but that will result in a lot of aquatic growth. That is fine on a small boat that you can pull out of the water and clean quite often, but is not so great on a container ship running around the world. What would happen if, for example, container ship picked some weed in Asia and carried it into the Baltic Sea where it takes hold and overtakes some of the native species? Similar things have happened and do actually continue to happen though it is not so much from hull growth because antifouling is more of an issue for the ballast water.
So, aside from just using no antifouling, what could you do? There is a talk of systems that slowly use some sort of jelly from the hull. The theory is that as the growth attaches to the hull, the jelly seeps off and takes the growth with it. There are also some silicon based paints that make it hard for barnacles to stick to the hull. Unfortunately, these do not actually stop the growth but it makes it easier to clean off.
As said above, most ports do not allow cleaning anyway not only because of the historical antifouling issues but also they do not want to clean off species that are not native to the harbor itself. The last thing they want is to be overcome by some sort of invasive weed from the other side of the world.
Safety must be essential factor in all ship operations. Ship owners need to make a profit, but the best way to do that today is by operating safely. The senior management team on the ship needs to put the health, safety, and security of their crew above everything else. To achieve that, safety must be managed effectively.
The ISM Code makes safety management essential. But safety management makes good sense in both human and commercial terms. For all shipping companies, a history of shipping incidents and accidents damages their reputation and leads to the loss of business and further financial consequences.
It may seem that accidents happen at random, but the researches show that there appears to be a relationship between near misses and serious accidents. The more near misses, or hazardous occurrences that happen, the more minor or serious accidents occur. Proper evaluation of a near miss or hazardous occurrence reports and making appropriate changes in procedures will reduce accidents and contribute in managing safety on board.
There are many components to successful safety management and obvious one is good training and familiarization with the company’s safety management systems. Another one is proper maintenance, including making sure that all maintenance is correctly carried out and logged. Motivation and leadership is also vital. If safety matters to the senior officers, everyone on board will notice that; they will then make safety a high priority in their own activities.
This leadership is an essential part of another component – the development of the safety culture. The senior officers must make it clear that they are committed to the company’s safety procedures for it is their attitude to safety that determines the safety culture of the ship.
Finally, there are the safety management procedures themselves – these shall be developed by the shore office in consultation with the shipboard management team based on their experience, risk assessment, and legal requirements. But the shore office’s responsibility does not end with creating good working procedures. They also have a responsibility to employ personnel of a suitable standard both at sea and ashore.
Most important of all, there shall be open communication and trust between the ship and the shore. The Designated Person Ashore under the ISM Code must ensure that everyone ashore and on board works together to manage safety. For safety management systems to be effective, they must be regularly reviewed to ensure continuous improvement.
Standards must be established and then implemented. The progress of this implementation must be followed and measured so compliance can be checked. The situation must be reviewed and changes made if the objectives have not been met.
Bridge resource management is such a vital part of the ship safety that it is requirement of the STCW convention and the ISM Code. It is a method which uses all resources available to conduct safe and efficient vessel bridge functions. These resources include both equipment and personnel. It takes both traditional skills to operate the equipment as well as managerial skills to use personnel resources to their potential. In order to best utilize personnel o board your vessel, you must understand the human factors involved. These include communications, situational awareness, stress, fatigue, leadership and decision making, and group dynamics and integration.
The NTSB has determined that human factor contributed to 75-80% of all marine casualties. That is why the STCW has made a requirement that all shipboard officers must demonstrate an understanding of the concepts which constitute effective Bridge Resource Management. Note that it is important to establish good vertical communication including making sure to include unlicensed personnel.
The bridge personnel’s performance is essential to the safety of the vessel. In order to achieve a sound and efficient bridge organization, defined procedures including Master’s standing orders are essential. Procedures shall be established to ensure duties are clearly defined and assigned to certain individuals. Effective procedures will minimize the risk that an error by one person will have disastrous and irreversible consequences. No one should be assigned more than they can handle, and no duty should be re-assigned without notifying the watch officer.
A visual lookout should always be maintained. In good visibility, it is good practice to periodically undertake collision avoidance routines in order to be fully prepared if difficult situations subsequently arise and reduce visibility.
To cope with the workload and risks, specific watch conditions should be established for restricted visibility, heavy traffic, and pilotage conditions. It is important to make sure that all equipment needed is available and functioning. If equipment is not functioning, its limitations and errors should be correctly applied. Pilots are valuable addition to the bridge team; there must be a good exchange of information between the pilot and the bridge team so each is aware of the other’s intentions.
In assigning duties, careful consideration should be given to the ergonomic layout of the bridge. The concept of the zones and responsibility takes this into consideration and duties are assigned so that personnel are not interfering with each other but can share critical information. Checklist should be used but not treated as a substitute to the thorough knowledge of the ship or procedures. Checklists have many benefits, such as focused attention at the task at hand, helping to establish priorities, serving as an aid against failure of human memory, helping to balance the workload, and eliminating guesswork by instituting standard procedures. The STCW convention requires that new crew members be given familiarization training prior to assuming any duties, and Masters and mates have knowledge of Bridge Teamwork Principles.
In this short article we will have some talk about the lifeboat drills that are supposed to be carried out on board ships on the regular basis in order to make sure that the ship crew members are duly aware of the lifeboat arrangement of their vessel and are able to launch the lifeboats in a safe way.
Lifeboats save lives and that is a known fact. The lifeboat will get you to safety except that occasionally, through poor design and maintenance, lack of training, lack of familiarity with their equipment, communication failure or simply operator’s error, lifeboat drills have actually taken lives or caused serious injury. That is why it is critically important that the drills are carried out with all participants focused on the safety.
So, what are the most important things you need to know here?
Firstly, you should know that whatever job you have on board a ship, anything that threatens the safety of your vessel, could put you in the position of having to know how to operate a lifeboat. As a professional mariner, you know that any lifting operation has its hazards, especially if you are launching or recovering a heavy lifeboat.
Look at this video showing what had actually happened during one of the lifeboat drills – there is no scenario, the case is real.
The on-load release mechanism failed because the cables controlling the hook release were not adjusted properly so the lifeboat was free to fall into the sea. The crew did everything correctly. The lifeboat was actually being recovered and luckily there was no one on board the lifeboat. If there had been, there is a high chance they would have been badly injured.
It is been claimed that as many as sixteen percent of the seamen who have been killed on merchant ships, died during lifeboat drills, and eighty percent of the fatalities are claimed to have been due to the hook release mechanism.
Let us look at the example how you would launch and operate a lifeboat. It may not the same as that on your ship but you can find details of lifesaving equipment and procedures for holding safe drills in your company ship’s safety management system.
One should never enter the lifeboat without checking that release hooks are fully closed and that the fall prevention devices are in place if they are used. However, there is one particular control that you must be very clear about – the release handle. Check that the release handle is in the closed and locked position and that the safety pin is installed in place.
It is this release handle that was operated in error in our real life example above, resulting in the lifeboat falling down to the sea. It should be understood that it is not always easy to know from the inside of the lifeboat how far it has been lowered or how high it is above water. For that reason, the system has been devised and used in some lifeboats that should ensure the lifeboat is in the water by using a hydrostatic sensing system.
So, we can say that deploying lifeboats in drills should always been undertaken in a professional and seamanlike way ensuring that full attention is paid to the significant risks that are inherent in getting you away from your ship if the worst happened. Please ensure that all crew members participating in the lifeboat drills in any role have thorough understanding of the safety aspects. This understanding may eventually contribute into the provision of the safety of human life at sea. We all know that the regular and properly conducted shipboard drills are the pre-requisite for provision of the safety.
Distress flares are the essential item of safety equipment. Flares are one of the most effective and rapid means of both signaling distress and indicating your exact position. It is imperative that flares are stored in a water-proof container. Flares can play a key role in assisting early rescue and also reducing a heavy cost of search and rescue operations.
In Tasmania, for example, 48 % of boats are used outside smooth waters, in sheltered or open waters, and are therefore required to have flares on board. Of course, many areas of smooth water can get rough, so the subject recommendation should be applicable to those boats, as well.
The general area of operation of your motor boat determines firstly whether they need to be carried and, secondly, the type of flares and number required. For sheltered, partially smooth waters the requirement is two red hand flares and two orange smoke flares. For open and coastal waters the requirement is two red hand flares, two orange smoke flares, and two red parachute rocket flares.
As various brands of flares have different methods of ignition, it is important to carefully read the instructions to ensure your familiarity with a method of operation. Prior to leaving, it is vital that all your passengers also know how to activate the flare. Your instructions may well save your life.
It is important to check the expiry date and replace any out of date product. Flares generally have three-year expiry from the date of manufacture. Such products can be returned to manufacturer. Be advised that it is an offence to activate a flare unless doing so for rescue purposes or when authorized by Master.
Where possible, hand-held flares should be activated on the downwind side of the vessel. Your arm should be fully extended above your head. Make sure that all other passengers and a vessel superstructure is well clear of this operation. Hand flares, particularly red flares, emit extreme heat, and so do be careful when using them.
The parachute rocket flare is a hand-held self-contained distress rocket which ejects a parachute with a suspended red flare at around three hundred meter altitude. It burns for forty seconds at a brilliant thirty thousand candela. It can be seen from fifteen kilometers by day and forty kilometers or more by night. Rocket flares must not be activated when a helicopter or aircraft is overhead.
Orange smoke flares are the most effective device for daytime use. They emit a vivid expanding cloud of dense orange smoke visible for sixty seconds and can be seen at a distance of up to four kilometers at sea level and even further from an aircraft.
Red flares are most effective at night but may be used during the day, as well. Red hand flares burn for over sixty seconds with an intense fifty thousand candela red light. They can be observed from a range of up to ten kilometers at sea level on a clear dark night and up to twenty kilometers from the air. They can be seen at day light over a shorter range.
Remember, you can be fined for not having the required safety equipment. Always check to ensure your compliance with the applicable requirements before you go boating. Needless to say that having all required safety equipment on board and maintaining it in a good working condition may one day save your life and the lives of your passengers.
Narrow passageways and fairways in rivers and canals with a navigable depth and width comparable small in relation to the draft and the breadth of passaging ships are called restricted waters. The maneuverability of ships navigating through such restricted waters will be affected by high hydrodynamic effects that are different from those when ships navigate in broad and deep waters. These peculiar hydrodynamic effects are the shallow water effects, ship squat, interaction and bank effect. Let us have a look into the shallow water effect and ship squat.
When a ship proceeds, the surrounding water is displaced toward the sides and bottom, making a relative flow against the ship’s advance. Advancing hull submerges deeper compared to when she is dead in the water; this changes the trim because the water around the hull flows a little faster compared with the ship’s speed and the hydraulic pressure decreases. This phenomenon is called ship squat; but why does this take place?
In shallow water, when the bottom clearance is comparatively small, the ratio of the horizontal flow along both sides of the ship increases because the current towards the bottom is restricted. The hydraulic pressure along both sides of the hull decreases, as the nearer hull is to the surface flow, the faster the rate accelerates and the water level around the ship drops considerably. For this reason, sinkage of the bow and stern and subsequent trim change become larger in shallow water than in deep water. We should be careful that sinkage of the bow and change of trim become greater when a ship runs in shallow water.
Now let us see how the depth of water affects the turning capability of the ship in shallow water. We will have a look at the data of the turning capability of the large ships. Every curve indicates the tactical diameter of a specific ship by the multiples of the ship’s length. There is another graph illustrating how the turning track of the ship differs as the depth of the water changes. Note that in both cases, the ratio of the water depth to draft is changed with all other parameters remaining same. Thus, we can estimate the tactical diameter of a ship running in restricted water as the multiples of its length, although the presented data are taken from the test results of the large ships, this method can also be applied to smaller ships.
In view of the maneuverability of a ship, the depth of water also affects course stability like the effects on turning ability. We shall study the difference of the effects on course stability in deep water and in shallow water from the results of the zigzag maneuver tests. In the zigzag maneuver test a ship’s rudder starts to swing alternately to port and starboard when the ship is set on the steady straight course. At first, the rudder is put to starboard ten degrees until her head swings starboard ten degrees from her original course. Immediately after the ship’s head swings ten degrees starboard, the rudder is changed to port ten degrees until her head appoints ten degrees port from her original course.
This alternate rudder operations are repeated several times making a ship run in a zigzag course. On the picture you can see the results of the zigzag tests conducted in deep and shallow water. The required time to turn a ship’s head port or starboard to a settled angle in shallow water become shorter with a smaller overshoot angle than that in deep water. This means that we can expect quicker rudder effect in shallow water compared to that in deep water.
A well-remembered case among several cases reported in the past is that of a large passenger ship navigating in shallow water without reducing the speed that hit her bottom severely on the rocks. When running in restricted water, it is essential to keep enough underkeel clearance to avoid the deterioration of the maneuverability and touch bottom damage.
Underkeel clearance means the space between the ship’s bottom and the sea bed. It equals the value when the ship’s draft is subtracted from the sum of chart datum and height of tide at that time. To maintain enough underkeel clearance, we have to consider the factors affecting the sinkage of the hull such as squat allowance, wave response allowance, possible error of chart datum, meteorological and oceanographic conditions, and other environmental conditions, and secure a safety allowance that eliminates ship handling difficulties.
The effects of sinkage and change of trim when a ship navigates in shallow water greatly affect the ship’s maneuverability. Enough knowledge of these effects in restricted waters will prevent accidents.
Working offshore is demanding – the work is specialized and often technical, the schedules are intense, fatigue and tiredness represent potential problems for everyone on board. Tiredness is due to long and hard physical effort – it is resolved by rest and sleep. This is not always easy on a constantly moving vessel.
Fatigue builds up over time and includes both physical and mental effects and results in reduced physical and mental capacity. It can be difficult to recover. The effects of fatigue are dangerous – it affects everyone regardless of experience, skills, age, knowledge and training. It can affect the individual’s reaction time, coordination and decision making. The senior officers on board need to be aware of this possibility which is especially likely towards the end of the shift or the tour.
Deck crew can be involved in hard physical work and so are affected by tiredness. Over time, this can also build up into fatigue. Those on the bridge are at risk of fatigue when maneuvering the vessel for long periods while close to installations. To avoid tiredness and fatigue, all personnel must use their off-duty time to relax and sleep.
There is international legislation that restricts working hours on ships and so helps to combat fatigue. Everyone on board must comply with the working hours requirements set out in the STCW Convention and the Maritime Labor Convention.
Occasionally, installations will ask for more working hours than the vessel is chartered for. Masters should put the welfare of their crews first. If they believe that crew fatigue will increase the hazards of any requested operation, they must say no and give their reasonsю
As well as knowing the legislation, the human element is equally important. Everyone must make the best use of their off-duty time to get enough rest. Senior officers must ensure that everyone including themselves does that. Tired and fatigued crew members are more likely to suffer personal injuries and make poor decisions with the potential to endanger the crew, the vessel, installations and the marine environment.
Everyone needs to aware of the effect of continual heavy weather on personnel’s ability to sleep. During safe job analysis, toolbox meetings, senior officers should watch out for any signs of fatigue in their personnel. But everyone should know how to recognize the signs of fatigue in themselves and their colleagues. The danger signs include:
Difficulty staying awake
Slowness & clumsiness
Other signs show the psychological effect of fatigue. People become unusually irritant and less talkative. They can become depressed and show anti-social behavior. If anyone believes that fatigue is affecting them or a colleague, they should do all they can to get themselves or individual some rest. The person concerned must use their maximum allowance of rest time to sleep and relax.
Crew members should inform their supervisor if they believe that fatigue is lowering their effectiveness. In the longer term, reducing fatigue is helped by eating healthily, smoking less and reducing coffee consumption.
Fatigue is dangerous offshore because it leads to slower responses and poor judgment of distance, speed, time and risk. Individuals can become pre-occupied with a single task and overlook more important issues. They become less vigilant.
Officers should ensure that everyone including themselves gets enough rest and makes best use of their off-duty time to minimize fatigue. Everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms of fatigue. Remember that if you are suffering from fatigue, you have the potential to engender yourself, your colleagues, your vessel, and the marine environment.