By Jaquelyn Burton (Coeval, Inc.) For many of the everyday practices in the maritime world – there are standards. Some are regulatory, still others are policy, some are habitual and many more are best practices and recommendations.
With the number and investigations into maritime accidents and losses becoming more public and transparent – it begs the question, should there be more industry benchmarking and inspections to improve standard practices onboard vessels?
Already there are recommendations and regulations that prescribe certain methods of operation for many ships and management offices. But, could there be an increased benefit in the safety of vessels if there were more industry organizations similar to how the Oil Companies International Marine Forum inspects and makes observations for tank-ships and terminal operators, that could make recommendations from the outside for different vessel types?
In the drive for continuing improvement, training is key. However, the type and method that the training is given varies greatly in its usefulness and overall application if the standards, operational procedures and methods differ greatly between the time in practice learning and that which is actually practiced on the particular vessels that they are training for.
The more specific the training is – the more effective it can be. The issue then becomes should there be hundreds or thousands of micro-specific training modules – so that beyond general training the details of that company’s equipment, procedures and specifications can be included.
Moving beyond the basic training of “this is a lifeboat it has this equipment stored inside and meets the requirements of the regulations” into a training that covers more type specific information “this lifeboat made by this manufacturer has this equipment made and it stowed in this way, common problem during launching, recovery, stowage testing, and maintenance are know to be thus….” Most trainings only are constructed to meet the regulated minimum standard criteria without taking into the account the ship’s-specific equipment installations.
The IMO has been responding to the lack of specific training for one area of maritime in the latest wave of ECDIS regulations – where not only is there an IMO model course – but the watchstander must also participate in type-specific training before working onboard ships equipped with an ECDIS system. And if they transfer to a vessel with a different system type – they must complete another training on that specific type.
There are short comings to these training, but the familiarity that they give can be invaluable to a watch stander with a short turnover and port stay. Every ship will inherently have different items and systems, but a seafarer will often encounter similar common problems on equipment made by the same manufacturer.
Examples like these hold true for many pieces of shipboard equipment and automation. If general training is required, then it should be important enough to merit type-specific training. So, if it could be better if it were type specific – would it be easier to change the training or to adapt a standard method?
From Weather routing, passage planning, mooring operations, cargo operations – Each vessel has special needs that have to be considered, each is different, yet safety still has to be evaluated. While required training as it exists covers these topics, many do not cover how to use what one actually sees in the operation of the vessels.
The inspections that are carried out by SIRE evaluate the shipboard and operational practices and conditions that relate to pollution prevention and safety. The Vessel Inspection Questionnaire covers many of the regulation and best practices that are expected to be carried out on all the Tank Vessels that are inspected by SIRE.
These types of inspections are pushing the operations and management of tankers to be ever-improving in their management and everyday practices. Looking at the practices, management, safety items, drills, records, equipment, and interviewing the crew – leads to a greater overall picture of the vessels operation and culture.
While standardization and independent inspections will not fix all of the problems with training and safety culture – they can point out areas for improvement that may have been neglected or overlooked.
The Maritime world can look to it’s cousin in the Aviation industry – both are full of safety management and training challenges. The Aviation industry has many check lists, as do we; and those check lists are sometimes critical. The check list system prevents mistakes from being made – and highlights the points of failure – especially among people who move through the same operations daily. Unfortunately, mistakes still happen daily. Even with the most comprehensive Safety Management Systems, things get missed.
Northwest Airlines Flight 255 is a reminder of the importance of the need for proper checklists, training and procedures. “The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the flight crew’s failure to use the taxi checklist to ensure that the flaps and slats were extended for takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the absence of electrical power to the airplane takeoff warning system which thus did not warn the flightcrew that the airplane was not configured properly for takeoff. The reason for the absence of electrical power could not be determined.”
The reliance on our automated systems should be of the trust yet verify variety. The verify part is what needs to be trained on time and time again – without that training especially of the specific variety it could be unintentionally missed.
In this age where we have checklists to ensure that we filled out other check lists – how can we ensure that critical items aren’t missed? Does the real question become how to adapt the training to the real world environment – or how to change the real world to match the training?
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