Ship Handling & Ship Safety Articles

Offshore Supply — Personnel Safety on Deck

Working on deck of the offshore vessel requires good safety awareness by both the deck crew and those on the bridge controlling the operation. The risk of personal injury is always present. The first defense against this is keeping to proper planning procedures. Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is also important. This includes a hard hat with a chin strap, safety footwear, high visibility jackets, and gloves. It can also include eye protection. Flotation devices will be required on the vessels with open decks. These must be put on correctly so that they do not come off should the wearer fall into the water.

There is often water on deck, so slips, trips and falls and a constant hazard. The deck crew should look out for each other’s safety and be prepared to stop the operation if their safety is jeopardized. Generally, for hooking up the pre-slung cargo requires a team of two is required. Deck crew must go to a position of safety during actual lifting. One crew member is designated as banksman and signals to the crane operator on the installation.

When working cargo, or anchor handling, the vessel will usually be working down weather – even a small swell can cause water to come on board and wash the crew off the deck. In difficult weather conditions remember the old nautical say – one hand for yourself and one for the vessel.

When deck operations have to be carried out at night, effective illumination of the working area is essential. In anchor handliOffshore Supply - Personnel Safety on Deck - 2ng, towing, and also mooring operations everyone on deck as well as those commanding the deck crew must be aware that ropes and wires can break, so when equipment and lines are under tension, everyone should be in a position of safety.

Anchor handling involves working with anchors, buoys, wire, chains and there equipment on deck. The mud and water comes on deck with them, makes a deck slippery and increases the risk of slips, trips and falls. For this reason, the deck should be cleaned as soon as possible.

If you are unsure about how to carry out a procedure, do not just carry on. You may be putting yourself and others on board at risk. If you are asked to do something that you consider unsafe, stop the job and speak to a senior officer. The senior officers should plan the operations efficiently and issue their commands in positive and calm manner. Complying strictly with proper procedures helps to minimize the risk of personal injury. Avoid cutting corners. Always think about where you are standing. Be aware of mooring points, uneven decks and other trip hazards.

In all situations, it is important to work calmly and never rush around. No job is so urgent that is worth risking your life and your safety. You, your colleagues and your vessel will all benefit from you carrying out the work calmly and correctly. Make safety your first priority while working on deck.

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Sailing with ECDIS

This short article is devoted to the practical use of ECDIS as an aid to navigation and the usage of the common features and functions in a safe and efficient way during the voyage of your vessel. The ECDIS system is only one of many complicated electronic navigation aids found on today’s modern ship bridges. To navigate his vessel safely and efficiently, the navigator must have a good navigational background, sufficient navigational practice, theoretical knowledge about the ECDIS system architecture, functions and features, and practical experience in the use of ECDIS systems.

An ECDIS system is a very impressive system even when seen through the eyes of the professional navigator. But no navigator should ever forget that all systems do have limitations and the fact that these limitations are very often well-hidden and/or not mentioned in the system manuals. The most important thing to know about modern computerized systems is their limitations. Knowledge concerning their functions and features is quickly accessible with a little interest and practice. The only way to get to know the limitations of the system is to study available material about the subject, system manuals, and by practical use under safe conditions.

As of today, the Seafarers Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Code does not specify any special training in the use of ECDIS. STCW table A-II/1 considers the ECDIS training to be a part of training in understanding a “chart”. As a modern ECDIS system is just as complicated as ARPA, this lack of detailed training requirements may pose a hazard to ships, sailing with ECDIS operated by untrained operators.

The reduction of presented information or proper selection of only relevant information is often an important task when setting up Sailing with ECDIS - 2an ECDIS system. An ECDIS system which simultaneously presents all available information tends to be overloaded and therefore the important information may be less visible. A basic and very important thing to understand and take into account at all times when using ECDIS is the fact that no system is better than its weakest chain, that is, “rubbish in – rubbish out”. Vital information for any ECDIS system is own ship’s position. Whenever own position is wrong, ECDIS chart information is wrong. Simple as that!

information is wrong. Simple as that! ECDIS systems accept position input from a number of positioning devices as well as dead reckoning. Most ECDIS systems today are connected to a GPS and/or DGPS. This means that stable and good positioning can be expected most of the time. However, the navigator should never forget to check his position as often as practicable by all available means in order to detect any malfunction or inaccuracy in the navigation system used as an input to the ECDIS.

Positions are always referenced to “something” and this “something” is referred to as the chart datum and there are hundreds of different chart datums around. This means that the navigators at all times must know:

  1. What chart datum does the ship’s positioning system connected to the ECDIS use
  2. What chart datum does the actual ECDIS chart use
  3. Whenever the datum used by the positioning system and the chart are different, known corrections must be taken into account.

Today, the ECDIS system is often connected to an integrated bridge system, of forms a part of an integrated bridge system, i.e. a system where the Radar, ARPA, Autopilot, Positioning, Routing, Log, Gyro, ECDIS etc. are connected and work as “one system”. Several options for “automatic sailing” become available to the navigator. Depending on the ship position, i.e. open sea, coastal or restricted waters, the navigator may select between several sailing options. The examples of possible sailing options found on an integrated ship bridge system include course mode, corrected course mode, and track mode.

Course mode is a sailing mode normally used in open waters and for long distance sailing, as this mode will give the shortest distance between two points. No correction for offset is made, but the ship will “home” to the destination.

Corrected course mode is used in waters where it is necessary to correct for wind and current. Correction for offset is made, but no attempt to follow the original planned track is made.

In track mode, the system will calculate the optimal path back to the original planned track. This mode is used in restricted waters whenever it is important to stay exactly on the planned track.

Sailing with ECDIS - 3For a professional navigator, it is a matter of course that the route selected for actual sailing is properly checked before it is activated and used for actual sailing. Parameters used when planning the route must still be valid in order to maintain required safety margins. If not, the route may have to be changed before it can be used safely. Examples of parameters which may have changed after the selected route was programmed are ship draft, available position accuracy, engine and steering gear reliability etc.

Navigation with an ECDIS system, especially when the ECDIS is connected to an integrated bridge system, changes the work situation for the navigator a lot. Conventional navigation with manual plotting of ship position in the chart, heavy traffic, and manual course change in restricted waters is a task that puts a heavy workload on the navigator. A good working ECDIS reduces that workload a lot. So, the navigator’s role has changed from actually doing the tasks to monitoring them. From the safety point of view, this should be very good, as the navigator is given more time to check important parameters and monitor the traffic more closely.

Sailing with ECDIS requires a highly qualified navigator with a sound and positive skepticism towards computerized systems. Take the necessary time and effort to really get to know your ECDIS. This will definitely save you lot of work and trouble in the future; it may someday save your career or even your life.

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Offshore Supply - Preparing and Operating Inside the 500 metre Zone

Let us talk a bit about the preparations that shall be done by the crew of the supply vessel about to enter the 5000 meter zone of the offshore installation. Before leaving port, the vessel shall ensure that it has most recent field charts and up-to-date information about the installations it is going to. On the way to the field, the vessel must monitor the weather and the weather forecasts. The people on the installation will be doing the same but the final decision for going ahead with any operation will be made by the Master.

Whenever at an hour of way or consistent with field procedures, the vessel notifies the installation of the vessel’s ETA, or estimated time of arrival. After the vessel is instructed to proceed, the pre-entry 500 meter zone checklist must be gone through.

Every vessel will have one as a part of the safety management system. Sometimes the charterers will have one that they will need the vessel to use. Whether the company or charterer checklist, it will include a communication check and a full equipment check including engines, thrusters, and rudders.

All propulsion machinery should be started; steering gear system and changes between control positions and maneuvering modes need to be checked. Some fields require the vessel to be on DP, while others insist that it is not used. The vessel needs to get it right. If required, the DP checklist must be completed and the DP must be running on entry to the zone.

Once all checklists are completed, the vessel can request permission to enter the 500 meter zone. Only when permission is given, can the vessel proceed. Before entering the zone, there must be a toolbox talk. Although time may be limited, it is important that the deck crew members understand the planned operations as well as the hazards on the vessel; there are many external hazards that must be considered.

The most recent field charts will be needed. Check with the OIM or the designated person to ensurOffshore Supply - Preparing 500m - 2e that you have the most recent information. If subsea operations are taking place, it is unlikely that the vessel be allowed inside the 500 meter zone. But this can happen if the installation needs the supplies urgently.

Helicopter operations are another potential hazard. Helicopters almost always land and take off into the wind and the vessel is usually asked to stand off. The vessel will be informed of any helicopter operations.

Other operations that can conflict with the vessel’s activities include overboard discharges, flaring, well testing, seismic work and air venting. The Master must ensure that the installation’s designated person keeps the vessel fully informed about all these operations, both planned and unplanned.

The vessel should first maneuver to a safe position outside the radius of the installation’s cranes and at least fifty meters off the installation. The Master should then assess the situation to ensure that working conditions are safe before proceeding to the position for cargo operations. Inside the zone, the engine room as well as the bridge should be continually manned. It is best practice to work down weather from the installation. If the installation requires vessel to work up weather, a further risk assessment may be needed.

It is possible that the vessel may need to tie up to the installation. This is a challenging procedure. The vessel will be moored either stern-to or alongside. Regular checking of the mooring lines is essential. These situations can cause considerable wear on the mooring ropes.

The personnel on the bridge must maintain a constant listening watch on the field VHF channel. The vessel must be ready to change position or stop operations at short notice. Stopping operations may mean leaving the 500 meter zone. Working inside the Offshore Supply - Preparing 500m - 3500 meter zone is demanding for everyone on board.

Many operations may be going on at the same time so it is important that anyone is told about any changes to the plan. The deck crew needs to keep alert – they must be prepared to stop or alter what they are doing at short notice, either because the weather has deteriorated or because the installation requires it for any reason.

Proper planning, good communications, and putting the safety of everyone on board as main priority will help to make these operations safe and successful.

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Introduction to the Port State Control

The basic inspection regime for all the MOUs is the IMO conventions. These include the Load Lines, SOLAS, MARPOL, STCW, COLREG and Tonnage conventions. Some MOUs also examine compliance with the relevant ILO conventions. Ships can check each MOU’s website for the further requirements. Complications can arise because for all members of MOUs, their national legislation will take priority over the MOU agreements.

MOUs have different levels of inspection. The initial inspection usually takes about three hours. If there are clear grounds to concern, it may progress to a more detailed inspection, adding another hour or two. Ships with a poor inspection history may be subject to a more detailed inspection. If the Master believes that port state control inspection is likely, he should double check the gangway watch. An ineffective or absent gangway watch will start the inspection badly as it implies poor compliance with the ISM Code. A proper gangway watch must always be in place. The ISPS Code must be strictly kept to. Ships with high target scores, such as old bulk carriers, passenger ships, oil tankers and gas and chemical carriers, will be subjected to an expanded inspection which will take six to eight hours.

MOUs have different levels of inspection. The initial inspection usually takes about three hours. If there are clear grounds to Introduction to the Port State Control - 2concern, it may progress to a more detailed inspection, adding another hour or two. Ships with a poor inspection history may be subject to a more detailed inspection. If the Master believes that port state control inspection is likely, he should double check the gangway watch. An ineffective or absent gangway watch will start the inspection badly as it implies poor compliance with the ISM Code. A proper gangway watch must always be in place. The ISPS Code must be strictly kept to. Ships with high target scores, such as old bulk carriers, passenger ships, oil tankers and gas and chemical carriers, will be subjected to an expanded inspection which will take six to eight hours.

Under the Paris MOU, the ship is obliged to inform the port if it believes that it is due for the mandatory annual inspection. The Paris MOU website lists the types of ship for which this is required. Always ensure that the PSC officer is escorted to the Master’s cabin. Be aware that the inspector will be looking around to see the state of the ship.


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Route Planning with ECDIS

What is voyage planning, who is responsible, how do we comply with the rules and how do we utilize the features and functions available in an ECDIS? The purpose of voyage planning is to support the bridge team and ensure that the ship can be navigated safely between ports from berth to berth. A voyage plan should cover ocean, coastal and pilotage waters and according to STCW regulations be planned in advance. The voyage plan aim to establish the most favorable route while maintaining appropriate margins of safety and safe passing distances offshore.

The following factors are amongst those that should be taken into account:

  • - The marine environment
  • - The adequacy and reliability of charted hydrographic data along the route
  • - The availability and reliability of navigation aids, coastal marks, lights and radar conspicuous targets for position fixing along the route
  • - The type of cargo can influence route selection
  • - Any routing constraints imposed by the ship, e.g. draught, type of cargo, etc.
  • - If possible, avoid areas with dense traffic
  • - Take into account weather forecasts, current, tide, wind, swell and visibility conditions
  • - If possible, avoid areas with onshore set or areas where onshore set can be expected
  • - Whenever possible, follow traffic separation schemes and follow ship reporting procedures
  • - Check technical systems before departure and if possible, take into account previous experience of their reliability
  • Take into account your own experience with the planned route and type of ship.

There are four main stages in the planning of a safe voyage:Route planning with ECDIS - 2

  • - Appraisal, i.e. the collection of information and validation of all relevant information;
  • - Planning, i.e. the presentation of the raw data -into information and the strategy to be used;
  • - The execution of tracking, voyage and communication control;
  • - Monitoring, i.e. ensuring that the voyage plan is being followed.
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Watchkeeping in Port

Cargo operations are probably the most important ship operations. They vary enormously from petrochemicals where the discharge is controlled by the ship’s officers to containerships where the discharge and loading is organized and largely carried out by the shore stuff. From your training and experience you will know the requirements of your own ship’s cargo operations but, whatever the cargo, many of the principles remain the same.

Prompt and accurate reporting of any damage must be done within twenty-four hours. Cargo condition, speed of loading or discharging, any delay in operations all can have commercial consequences. The chief officer will know what is critical in your cargo operations and you should discuss the procedures with him. Much of the time cargo operations proceed according to pre-determined plan. It is when the unexpected occurs that the skill of the deck officer is really tested. By responding in the right way you can make a big difference to the commercial performance of your ship.

Make sure you know what can go wrong, what to do and whom to contact if it does. Good situational awareness is the basis for any effective response. Make sure you know what is going on at all times in port. This means being on deck most of the time, keeping your eyes open and communicating with the terminal staff. This will also help with another major task – making sure that the ship is safe.

Current, tide and the cargo operations can all move the ship in relation to the shore if the mooring ropes are slack. Watchkeeping in Port - 2The ropes need to be checked regularly for tautness. If your ship has self-tensioning winches, these are best left on the brake and not left in tension once the ship is secured alongside. In an emergency, never release the brakes and attempt to pull a ship back alongside using the power of the winches alone. You must know the ship’s mooring equipment and be familiar with its operation and capabilities including the type of winch and brake, the size, type and length of lines.

Make sure you are aware of the tidal changes and keep an eye on a weather forecast. Sudden changes can have a big impact on cargo operations and additional mooring arrangements may be needed. Be aware of nearby ship movements, check the lines after any ship has arrived or left the next berth.


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Operating Shipboard Carbon Dioxide Systems

An engine room fire broke out on a tug involved in the towing of an offshore rig and the engine room was believed to be unmanned. The carbon dioxide system panel was opened, the alarm sounded and the engine room ventilation shut down. It took some time to confirm that the engineering specialist on board was not in the engine room. After this delay, it was decided to use the carbon dioxide system. In the stress of the situation, the officer who ordered to operate it forgot the instructions. He believed he was looking at the operating system with the backup. He only operated the first lever. Hours later, he realized he had not operated the system correctly. He decided to check the carbon dioxide room – it was obvious that no carbon dioxide actually reached the engine room. By then, the fire has burned itself out, completely destroying the engine room.

It is vital for the officers to be familiar with the carbon dioxide installations on board their ship; during a major emergency is a wrong time to work out how to use the system. Officers will be faced with demanding decisions. They must educate themselves about the system before they have to use it. If the engine room is on fire and unmanned, the carbon dioxide should be used as soon as possible. There is no benefit in delay. Fire team should only enter the burning engine room if there are personnel inside. Delaying using the system only increases the damage to the engine room or cargo space and increases the risk to the ship and personnel on board.

Carbon dioxide makes up a tiny proportion of the atmosphere, less than 0.1%. At higher concentrations it is not justOperating Shipboard Carbon Dioxide Systems - 2 asphyxiating – it is toxic. It affects the central nervous system – this begins at the concentration of 2% which after an hour or two causes headaches and difficult breathing. A concentration of 5% causes headaches, difficult breathing and sweating. The 10% concentration quickly cases unconsciousness, increased heart rate, headache and sweating. Concentrations exceeding 17% result in loss of control, unconsciousness, convulsions, coma and death.

In dealing with carbon dioxide systems remember that the hazard is much greater that asphyxiation by an inert gas. Although all systems will be different, they will have similar components. These will include a number of gas bottles, a manifold linking them all, and the release system involving main release valve. The release system will always be operated by small gas bottles as these systems are designed to operate without electrical power. There are always two operating systems – one in the carbon dioxide room and remote one outside it but not in the engine room. Two officers should be involved in the releasing of carbon dioxide...

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Forklift Trucks and their Use on Board Ships

As we know, the forklift trucks are among the most useful and practical devices used on board ships. However, they shall be used with utmost care since they can be really dangerous to the people. The first thing is to assess the risk – a standard operating procedure for the use of forklift will have been produced as a result of the general risk assessment. This procedure should identify the hazards associated with operating the equipment on board particular vessel. It will also contain the control measures, such as the use of the correct personal protection equipment.

Only the qualified drivers shall be allowed to drive the truck. They shall have completed the appropriate training course conducted by the authorized organization. The certification they achieve shall be kept on boast as part of their personal records. Never use a forklift truck if you are not qualified to operate. And, prevent anyone from operating a forklift truck, who is not qualified or authorized to use it. Under no circumstances should you operate the forklift truck if you are taking prescribe medication affecting your ability to drive.Forklift Trucks and their Use on Board Ships - 2

Likewise, anyone found driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances, is liable for immediate company dismissal and possibly criminal prosecution from port state authorities. In some instances, the work permit may be issued. This is good practice as it creates the record of the forklift truck use and the people who are authorized to drive it. The ignition key is then handed over. Note that they must be removed from the ignition each the forklift truck is left unattended or stowed.

A number of checks shall be made before the forklift truck is used. Firstly, we shall ensure the good working condition of the device. Ideally, there should be a condition checklist supplied based on the manufacturers guidelines, and the technical inspection should take a minimum of 5-10 minutes; that five or ten minutes of your time well worth taking – it will ensure the safety of yourself and your colleagues. These checks shall be made in the following order. Firstly, is the parking brake on? Next, the cage should be checked; where the open top cages are fitted, the hard hats must be worn as necessary.

It is recommended to always wear a hard had with the chin strap in place when operating the any forklift truck. The safety belt, if fitted, should be tested and inspected for wear – this must be worn at all times whilst driving the vehicle. Check the hydraulic connections for any leaks and wear-and-tear. The load guard, carriage plate, and forks should be inspected for signs of cracks or deficiencies. Oil and fuel levels must be checked. The oil level is correctly established by taking a dip stick reading. Coolant levels are checked and any relevant hoses inspected. There should also be sufficient fuel in the tank for the day’s operations. Wheels and tires are examined. Only now and upon completion of all checks, should the engine be started. If the engine fails to start, under no circumstances should the attempt be made to jump start the vehicle.

Once started, the foot brake can be tested. The steering should be checked for excessive play or wear. See and be Forklift Trucks and their Use on Board Ships - 3seen – vehicle lights and hazard lights must work efficiently and any mirrors positioned correctly by the driver. Be heard – check the horn and any reversing alarms. The hydraulic controls also need to function correctly. Finally, the tilt mechanism is tested. If any deficiencies are found, report must be made to the officer-in-charge and the key is returned, and “Do not use” sign must be displayed clearly so that the other crew members are aware of its condition. Remember, no matter how often it is used, each time the forklift truck is signed over, it must be checked prior to use.

It must be established that the forklift truck is capable of lifting the load safely. At no time should you lift the load greater that than the vehicle’s specified Safe Working Load, which must be clearly marked. Care should be applied to the establishing the weight of the items to be lifted or moved. Large items, such as machinery or equipment, should also have their own weight indicated. Stores shall have their weight clearly described on the packaging or the delivery note. Never attempt combined lift with another vehicle. Complicated lifts involving a pair of forklifts requires special training and should not be carried out by ship’s personnel. Stores and supplies are usually delivered to the ship on pallets and these are ideally for maneuvering the loads around easily.

Whenever possible, put items on the pallets and secure them. The condition of the pallet must be checked for damage or defects before use. Items should be placed centrally on the pallet to maintain even balance. Larger pieces of equipment which are not suitable for palletizing, can be moved safely so long as they are secured and within the SWL of the equipment. Waste containers and the garbage bins are often moved by forklift trucks. Some of them are designed for this purpose; others are not and should be carried on a pallet. In some instances, forklift truck will be as the raised work platform – never use a pallet for this operation, only use specially designed, certified and approved Forklift Trucks and their Use on Board Ships - 4man carrying cages.

All working aloft procedures must also have an appropriate risk assessments carried out and permits issued prior to use. A forklift truck is not a taxi – under no circumstances should the cage be used to transport crew members. Particular attention must be given to how the forks interact with loads. Pallet sizes vary. The distance between the slots must correspond correctly with the forks. If not, the forks will need to be adjusted. Fork plates must be leveled and spaced equally apart, equidistant from the center to avoid a potentially dangerous unbalanced load. The load must also be checked for fork blade length. If the load exceeds the length of the forks, it could topple forward. If the load is significantly shorter that the fork length, the protruding blades must be taken into account, particularly if there are other pallets nearby. Remember – only lift items that can be moved or carried safely within the working limits.

It is vital that the fellow crew members, stevedores, visitors or anyone else in vicinity are aware of the forklift operations taking place. Extreme care should also be taken of passenger on vehicle ferries. Pedestrian walkways, emergency exits must remain clear. Ro-Ro loading and discharge involve a constant stream of traffic arriving and leaving the ship. Caution must be observed to avoid collision with the vehicles. Extra care must be taken if the load has to be reversed. If the load is large and obscures the vision of the driver, second crew member may be required to act as a signaler and to control the traffic flow, if necessary. Access to either the pickup point or drop off point should be checked for obstructions.

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