Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lowered Seamanship Standards or Higher Workloads?

Capt John G. Denham has an interesting post over at gcaptain. Capt Denham asserts that
most non-environmental induced failures are produced by poor ship management: collisions, allisions, groundings are mostly caused by the lack of a proper lookout, inadequate BRM, and or failure to observe the ordinary practice of seaman.
This is true of course, Denham also writes:
The ordinary practice of seaman implies a knowledge of proper seamanship and experience that is disappearing in our mariners
But has there been a decline the quantity and quality of seamanship in the merchant fleet over the last few years? I said so my self here just yesterday. Taking the role of devils advocate I can see it may not necessarily be true. Consider a situation in which three ships are jockeying for space in the vicinity of a pilot station. One of the three captains is inept. There remains however sufficient sea room for the other two ships to stay clear. Now take the same situation except ship traffic world-wide has increased and there are now six ships arriving. At the same ratio of good to bad seaman now two captains are inept. But now, with six ships in the same are there is much less sea room, less room for error. Each ship faces a much higher risk situation.

What is the situation aboard each ship?. A ship may have four good, experienced seaman on board, say the captain, chief mate, second mate and bos'n. To stay within STCW guidelines each can work two 18 hour days back to back. If a ship was going to arrive in port, stay for three days, and then depart on a 10 day sea voyage there will always be sufficient skill available to cope with most situations. On the other hand if a ship is going to call at 8 ports in 10 days in marginal conditions it will quickly burn up the skilled crew. There will inevitably be both fatigue issues and a shifting of the workload to less skilled crewmembers.

Is there a decline in skills or is the industry just asking for too much from the seaman it does have? Or both?

No comments: