Risk Moment : Avoiding the Wrath of PSC…..

Image courtesy of shipspotting.com
Image courtesy of shipspotting.com

The crew of the tanker Overseas Jademar are sitting at anchor in Port Angeles, Washington this morning.  As the vessel was detained by the U.S. Coast Guard yesterday after a port state control (PSC) inspection, they are likely effecting the necessary repairs to clear the deficiencies and get back to moving cargo.  With a charter rate of $15,000 to $20,000/day, you can only assume there is significant pressure from the home office to do so quickly.

The deficiencies listed in the USCG press release of February 10th include fire doors that do not close automatically, missing or damaged gaskets on fire hoses and an inoperable emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB).  When taken individually, these do not seem enough to detain a vessel, but taken as signs of a systemic breakdown in the maintenance of lifesaving and firefighting equipment, they may be the tip of the iceberg.  Unfortunately, many of us have signed on vessels and found the same or similar conditions.  Long story short, we may be in danger of being detained ourselves if we allow these conditions to persist or occur.

How to help ourselves?  We can start by taking the inspections of lifesaving and firefighting equipment seriously. To put it mildly, we are only helping ourselves to have this equipment in good condition.  It is very common to have the 3rd mate/officer conduct the firefighting and lifesaving inspections.  This, however, does not relieve the master and/or chief officer of the responsibility of ensuring these inspections (and maintenance!) are conducted properly.  One 3rd mate pencil-whipping the inspections for several months could put you in the same situation as Overseas Jademar!  Continuing on, we can become familiar (or re-familiarize ourselves) with the links below.  While information comes at us from many angles in an ever-increasing deluge, spending a little time here may pay great dividends when the general alarm starts ringing…….or the inspector comes calling…….

Let’s be safe out there.

Additional Reading and Links


LR / UK P&I : ISM & ISPS pocket checklist : Reducing the risk of Port State Control detentions

Security Moment : Nigerian Waters Free of Pirates?!

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director of Shipping Development, Captain Warredi Enisuoh, recently addressed the carriage of unarmed security personnel onboard vessels in Nigerian waters.  The concern relates to the security personnel’s relationship with companies that also provide armed security teams for maritime security – raising the possibility that weapons are being carried for part of the vessel’s voyage and then disposed overboard or secreted on board.  Captain Enisuoh voiced this opinion and stated, “The weapons they come with could be sold. This could well threaten the peace and calm we enjoy in our waters……..The agency is, therefore, sounding a note of warning that any vessel that comes into Nigeria with a foreign guard, whether armed or unarmed will be detained.”

This statement of the “peace and calm” enjoyed in Nigerian waters surely comes as cold comfort to the crew and families thereof of the MT Kalamos.  Anchored in Nigerian waters and awaiting the completion of loading, this Greek-owned tanker was boarded by armed intruders at approximately 2200 on February 3rd.  Three crewmembers are missing – presumably kidnapped for ransom – and one officer is dead – victim of gunshot wounds in these “peaceful waters.”  The tanker’s operating company, Aeolos Management, is reportedly working with the Nigerian authorities to locate and free the missing crewmembers.

This incident comes on the heels of the detention of three vessels that had the temerity to enter Nigerian waters with additional, but unarmed, security personnel onboard.  As criminals the world over – from the Malacca Straits to Somalia to the Gulf of Guinea to South America – have realized there are hundreds of millions of dollars of assets (vessels and cargo) floating around without any security, NIMASA directly prohibits any additional security unless it is provided by local vendors.  As recently as July 2014, the Nigerian Maritime Administration publicly announced that they were “well-equipped to combat piracy,” yet tragedies such as these continue to occur.

Perhaps the Nigerian authorities should view this incident as an opportunity to embrace Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSC) and work with the maritime industry to reduce and eliminate violence against seafarers.  Worldwide, this violence is increasing, yet there are barriers to providing proper security – some thrown up by nation-states.  The IMO has addressed many of these barriers, yet some countries, such as Nigeria, continue to resist.  Certainly, the sovereignty and security of a country cannot be questioned, but as the human costs mount, one must ask, “Why?”  Perhaps, the answer is as simple as the storm that “moves safely out to sea.”  Seafarers are out of sight and out of mind.  Until an incident such as the MT Kalamos.

Having Trouble Explaining the Difference Between Near Misses and Unsafe Acts?

Is it a near miss?  Or was it an unsafe act?  Maybe just an unsafe condition.  What’s the difference and how do you explain it to your crew when introducing them to your safety management system?

Check out nearmiss.dk for more cartoons like the one below.  It’s a good visual explanation of the differences between some of the terms used in our safety management systems.  As the safety culture of a vessel and/or company evolves, many are moving away from the simple reporting of near misses.  By identifying (and resolving!) unsafe acts and unsafe conditions, the goal is to break the error chain before a near miss even occurs.

So, where is YOUR safety culture on the evolution chain?


Near Miss - Lifting Gear

Cargo Moment : Twin 20′ Lift Gone Bad

The introduction of the standardized cargo freight container changed the shipping industry forever.  From literally weeks to discharge and load a ship, cargo operations are now measured in hours.  Moving tens of tons of cargo at a time is not without its hazards and drawbacks, however.

One of those drawbacks is when a container lift goes badly.  Whether it is equipment failure or operator error, even the highly mechanized operations of loading and discharging containers can sometimes slow to a crawl or stop entirely awaiting the resolution of a problem.

Spreaders fail.  Wires Fail.  Load plans change.  Human error rears it’s ugly head.  Any of these or numerous other factors can make your day go bad very quickly.  What happens next is often up to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of those involved.  For those who have had containers hanging off spreaders, hatch covers fall in the hold or containers jammed in cell guides, you have an idea of what steps to take.  For those who have never been in those situations, it may be time to play, “What if….?” with yourself and have a rough plan in mind.

The TT club looks at the specific problem of 20′ twin-lifts in their latest TT Talk.  Take a look and think about the factors involved.  Remember these safety ideas when working with containers :

1. Do not walk under a suspended load.  Ever.  That hard hat might save your life if a twistlock falls off a container, but will not save you if the container falls off the spreader.

2. On your ship, you are the expert.  Yes, longshoremen conduct cargo operations every day, but they may not know the idiosyncracies of your vessel or may not be as concerned about damage to the vessel.  If you have doubts, stop cargo operations until the situation can be clarified or resolved.

3. If any near misses occurred during cargo operations, make sure they are documented.  By passing along the information, others may avoid the same situation.

Lets be safe out there.

Additional Reading and Links

TT Talk – Costly Pickings : the persistent accidental twin-lift problem

Shipping and Freight Resource : Is the current inspection regime for containers good enough..?

Cover photo courtesy of Felixstowe Dockers

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