10 Professional Mistakes Seafarers Should Never Make Onboard Ships

5:48 pm Saturday, February 11, 2017

By: Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho

(Reposting an interesting piece from Marine Insight “10 Professional Mistakes Seafarers Should Never Make Onboard Ships“) 

There is no dearth of stress on board ships. Ask a seafarer and you will know what it takes to work on board. It is the ultimate test of both physical and mental strength. No mariner is born smart! One has to learn the ropes of the game, avoid the pitfalls, and play it safe.

In this difficult job market, a mariner must know what not to do in order to prevent any kind of professional trouble. But every seagoing professional knows that under excessive work pressure at sea, mistakes are bound to happen. So how does one save work-related trouble? It is by keeping note of basic yet important things while working on board ship.

Here are ten mistakes a professional seafarer should never want to make on a ship.

  1. Never follow Illegal or Irrelevant Orders

Whether you are a rating, an operational level officer, or a management officer controlling the ship’s operations, there will always be a boss ordering you from the top.

To avoid unnecessary trouble, make sure that you know all the important regulations of the sea including SOLAS, MARPOL, COLREG, ISPS, STCW etc.

Never oblige to an order which violates all these important laws as it may land you in prison and can even end your career. If you think that the orders asked to follow are dangerous for your ship or ship’s personnel, do clarify again with your seniors before proceeding.

Real Incident: It has been reported several times that people pump out bilges or throw garbage in sea when ordered by their superiors. Such activities have high chances of bringing both you and your superior to court or prison.

  1. Never Hide a Problem or a Mistake

Everyone makes mistake, and unless it is not repeated several times, it is usually forgiven. The same applies to every mariner on ships. If you make a mistake, of whatever kind, don’t hide; instead report it to your superior so that necessary steps can be taken immediately by the onboard team. Hiding mistakes can lead to bigger problems or emergency situations later on.

Real Incident: A ship’s duty engineer ignored a minor leakage from hot oil pipe as his watch was almost about to end. The motorman of the next watch met with an accident from the bursting of the same oil pipe causing burns. Moreover, the ship’s engine had to be stopped until the pipe was repaired.

  1. Make Correct Paper Work Entries

In today’s shipping industry, documentation has become the primary concern for all shipping operators, who keep a track of each and every operation of the ship. These records are used as a proof for authorities that the ship is operating as per all international regulations.

It also helps them in tackling future problems (as the documents are used as references) and most importantly, they are used for insurance claim survey if any damage or accident occurs. Thus make sure that all the entries you make in your documents (e.g-Log books) are correct to avoid any mishaps in the long run.

Real Incident: Many officers enter wrong and manipulative readings/ records in the official log book, which is considered as the main reference for any operation on ships. This has lead to several fatal accidents and emergency situations in the past. Moreover, when in need, these false records can lead to wrong interpretation or cancellation of insurance money in case damage occurs to the ship.

  1. Don’t Ignore Alarms – Every Alarm is a sign that Something is Wrong

Different types of alarms (audible and visual) are fitted onboard ships to warn crew members of any emergency, so that immediate actions can be taken to tackle the same. It does not matter if the alarm is genuine or just meant for a drill; one must treat every alarm as an emergency and act on the dedicated duties as soon as possible.

Don’t use your brain to judge a situation when an emergency alarm is given; just act! Sometimes even a second delay can lead to severe consequences and loss of life.

Real Incident: Once a vessel was crossing the Indian Ocean, which is considered a no pirates attack zone and a safe region. Suddenly a general alarm was heard. Some of the crew members thought it was a drill or some error in the alarm system. They were not spontaneous and delayed their duties. The ship was attacked by pirates and those who took the alarm seriously reached the Citadel safely whereas those who ignored were held as hostages by the pirates.

  1. Don’t allow Anyone to Have Access to Your Cabin

Your cabin in ship’s accommodation is your own private place and you are solely responsible for all the holdings inside it. Never allow any one (from ship or outside) to enter your cabin without your consent or presence.

Custom authorities of different countries have their own rules for carrying particular objects in their countries. If caught carrying object which is prohibited in a country, the ship can be held or arrested and you can land in prison or prosecuted.

Real Incident: An oiler kept three movie CDs containing adult material in an able seaman’s room without the consent of the later.  This was done to hide them from customs of a particular country. When customs boarded the ship, they checked all the cabins and as per the rules arrested both the oiler and the AB for possessing such obscene material.

  1. Don’t be a “Parcel Boy”

When joining a ship or signing off after finishing up a contract, you may be in a jolly mood and ready to help your mates. Sometime you may be asked (requested) to carry a parcel and hand it to his/her family or vice-versa. Never carry any such things from your crew members or their families without completely checking the parcel and knowing the custom regulations of the country you are flying to.

Companies and agents will be responsible only until you enter the airport, after that, it would be solely your responsibility. Hence avoid any kind of trouble to yourself and to the company.

Real Incident: A seafarer was once held at Singapore airport for taking extra liquor in a parcel handed to him by a crew member.  He was fined for the act and also missed his flight due to the delay.

  1. Never Get Involved in Physical Fights- Be Calm

On a ship there are people from different nationalities working together. This may sometime give rise to a conflict. Never make an issue big enough that it leads to physical fights. Such behaviour may lead to your suspension from sea career or imprisonment in some countries as per the severity of the matter. It is important to maintain your cool while working onboard as injury of any kind at mid sea can become dangerous because of non availability of special medical assistance.

Real Incident: A crew member was suspended after he got involved in a physical fight with his senior officer at a US port.  Instead of reporting it to the management officers of the ship he took the matter in his own hand. Local law of the country imposed fine on the crew for this incident.

  1. Don’t Drink and Drive – Not even a Ship

The basic rule on land applies to ships as well. Whether you work in the engine room or keep watch at the bridge, never carry out your duties under the influence of alcohol.

If you have been drinking or find that the person came to relieve you is in drunken condition, do not take over or allow him/her to take over the watch. Always make sure you follow drugs and alcohol policy of your company. Violation of this policy is a serious offence which can cost you two years of suspension from the job. Working in drunken condition can even lead to accidents and emergencies.

Real Incident: Under the influence of alcohol, a Master of bulk career MV Kathrina misjudged the course and ship ran aground on the Goodwin Sands in the Dover Strait. Master was prosecuted with one year of imprisonment.

  1. Be on Time, Don’t Miss Your Ride

The ship is the only place you are safe.  It is your temporary home when sailing in international waters. When you go for a shore leave, make sure you note down the shore leave expiration timings and also come back on time to avoid the embarrassment of getting left behind and being a liability to the company.

Real Incident: It is very common practice to manipulate the ship’s departure timing with cargo loading schedule and not coming back on shore leave expiring time. Several incidences have been reported of seafarers getting left behind in a port or have delayed the ship causing financial loss to the company.

  1. Ship is Not Your Private Property

When signing off from the ship, many professional seafarers take home ship’s property (from computers to printer stationary; yes it’s true!) along with their luggage. Such behaviour is not at all ethical as crew replacing you will need those resources to carry out daily operations of the ship after you are gone.

Selling of ship spare or bunker is another practice carried out for personal gain. Such activities can lead to suspension of your job, along with penalty and legal consequences under theft case.

Real Incident: A chief engineer was sent to prison for selling bunker of the ship and making illegal money from it for personal gain. The company registered the case against its own employee to make sure such incident is not repeated.

Being a professional seafarer means a good track record of work with correct attitude. Make sure you note the above mentioned practices to avoid unnecessary trouble.

So what practices do you follow to avoid trouble on ship? Do you have any advice for our seafarers?

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