In response to the earlier article on the subject, which can be found here:-
The Master in this case is in his 50s, owns and operates family as well as own businesses ashore INCLUDING a software company, is extremely competent and known as the best SAILING Master in the company he works in on gas carriers, is thoroughly computer literate, and comes out to sea because he enjoys it, always did.
When this man, at such an early age, wants to hang up his boots in disgust now, even though he is absolutely fit, one wonders - what's really happening out there on ships?
Here are his words, in context with my previous article on the subject:-
With reference to the essay on fatigue by Veeresh Malik:-
All above factors are inherent. Only counter measure has been stipulation of rest & work (R/W) hour duration by (STCW). This is only a monitoring mode and does not address the root cause of fatigue. Also, be frank, this record of R/W is easily fudged or maintained to satisfy the monitors. There are multiple electronic and satellite based ways to keep track of this if required - even taxi and bus drivers now utilise these.
To attack, this word used specifically because it is killing the industry, the root cause:-
A) Safe manning:- This certificate is taken by owners and operators in collusion with the authorities as the only requirement to meet statutory manning needs. Once issued, it is seldom, if ever, reviewed by the flag state, and hardly ever by the port state, which eventually is the ultimate sufferer in case of an episode or damage.
1) This certificate is issued on basis of a ship being new and all systems and automation being in perfect operation. It does not consider the obvious effects of the age of the vessel where by ageing the original designed systems have degenerated, additional workloads due to excessive maintainance becomes a fact of life, and increase in excessive breakdown maintainance makes for massive issues which cannot even be described since often they involve the "chewing gum and baling wire" kind of "jugaad".
2) This certificate does not consider trading patterns and port turnaround times. By rights, a safe manning certificate should take this into account for different trade patterns, just like load lines. As a matter of fact, one wonders what Plimsoll's fate would have been if he had been around today, probably not survived the shipowner's lobbies!
3) Workloads increase in adverse weather conditions like storms, ice navigation, restricted area navigation, STS operations etc. This has become even worse with climate change. Here again, what are the realities are well known, but where are the solutions that take these into account?
4) Manning level is maintained and certified at bare minimum for owners to save manning cost. That is a known fact. When owners talk about safety margin in every aspect, then why can't the required safe manning also be increased to take this consideration to maintain a little higher level of manning? What, after all, are we talking about, 3-5 more people per ship?
Leaving this judgement to ship-managers and ship's staff (who are under the mercy of owners) surely leads to operating a vessel under manned for intended voyages. Fudging of work and rest records is then a natural follow-through to satisfy the monitors (PSC, FSIS, Class etcetc.)
In a scenario where a master opines that:-
(1) The vessel though meeting safe manning requirements of certificate is under manned for the intended voyage and delays voyage to meet requirement, (2) And then delays sailing due crew not sufficiently rested . . . then who will stand behind the Master's decision when it is in conflict with owners interest, rather ensure his continued employment? This also can be extended to a crew member who refuses to work beyond the rest work hour requirement.
*1. Raising safe manning levels as safety margin basis age, condition, voyage of vessel as well as data gathered by automatic means. If retro-fitting of lifeboat capacity and accommodation is not possible, then conditions of class to apply.
*2. Immunity to Master who excercises his overriding authourity in meeting rest work hour periods requirement for Indian flag vessels as well as foreign flag operating under Indian DGS RPS Regulations.
*3. Penalty on owner or operators for flouting work rest hour periods. waiver or additional loading of insurance cover in above cases.
*4. Provision by regulators to receive formal as well as anonymous complaints about overwork on ships.
B) Reduce factors increasing workloads:-
The industry seems to be believe only in inspection , monitoring n data generation as means of ensuring safety which in turn has increased workloads and information overloads. This in itself is self cancelling. To give an example:- when a tanker/gas carrier calls port, these are the least level of activities:-
1. Customs, Immigration, Health formalities. even today in times of computers and paperless technologies at least 1 ream and more is wasted generating papers required and equal amount of time (Most companies have passed on this load to Master / Other officers after making radio officer redundant after the introduction of GMDSS)
2. Port safety inspection
3. PSC or FSI, Coast Guard Inspection
4. Internal or external audit
5. Vetting/SIRE inspection. (On average, owners require to maintain 3 valid vettings (validity 6 months) some maintain more than six) no two SIRE inspection or 2,3,4 can be concurrent this inspection.
6. Company shore staff, Inspection, General Inspection, etc most companies have not less than once every 6 month.
7. Class Surveys.
8. Various extensive other logistic activities like store, crew change,customs rummaging , repairs, etc etc.
So, fact remains, vessels enter and vessels sail out with crew fatigue.
Earlier ports calls were rejuvenating. By a way that seafarers could step ashore. have a change of food, atmosphere etc. Today we dread coming to port, and that is the simple truth, even if we get shore-leave we are treated as not just easy prey but also as criminals.
C) Information overload:-
ISM has added additional burden of paper work at sea. Number of checklists, procedures, records are being generated. Who ever says that ISM does not mean excess paper work is being very economical with the truth. At every audit a new checklist and a new procedure is added without evaluating its neccesity. There is no questioning or enquiry to audit observations. Checklist content has swelled up beyond practicality or rationale. Common seamanship practices have been lost and have become only items of checklist.
If a duty officer has to really comply to adhere and fill these up sincerely, she or he wont have time to look out of bridge front. 90% of checklists are filled up post operation to satisfy the auditors. If that is to be the case, then the office may as well send trainee managers to sail after doing basic STCW and get short-term CDC as purser, so that simultaneously they understand what life on the ships they may manage is really about.
New generation of quality managers ashore with minimal or no practical experience at sea are adding more and more to this garbage. Same people will ring-up to find out what time-zone the ship or port is in, what is the distance between ports or even simple questions to which answers are there in their own computers or files or books behind their tables.
And then there is the overload due to paperwork. To give an example with operational SVDR, ECDIS,e/r dataloger, digital echosounder with 30 days memory, we still maintain manual sounding log, gps log, e/rm movements etcetcetc. Even bus conductors where still left, or drivers, have better equipment, often hand-held. These documents are required as documentry evidence that officer is monitoring positions, soundings, engine movements, weather, everything. Additionaly we have new checklists as coastal navigation, CL tss, watch t/o checklist, ocean passage checklist . . . passage plan is written as thesis copy-pasted often without understanding. Important info is buried under this garbage. In open sea, middle of Pacific you have wheel over position marked and written in passage plan for 15 degrees course alteration.
Do these not contribute to fatigue at sea?
So, will somebody come forward to audit this information overload? And not just somebody who has been ashore forever. We require comptent Masters and Chief Engineers, not just those with Certificates of Competency, with recent seagoing experience (atleast 12 months in the last 5 years) to trim this mess created by novices becoming quality manager by virtue of being good with Excell or Word and having done a 100% passing rate auditors course on time-pass basis.
D) LACK OF RECREATIONAL FACILITIES ONBOARD:-
There is no regulation to ensure recreation for seafarers on board. How many ships have a gymnasium onboard? A laser projector coasts peanuts now, but how many ships have a good auditorium for the complement? How many ships are fitted with omni directional tv dish antenna? How many owners give free access to emails, or have internet onboard? if at all given what are address and size limitations?
New ships are being launched with lesser and lesser amineties. this lack of recreational facility adds to fatigue, and is amongst the most important because the ship is the seafarers work place as well as home.
I have not yet seen any concrete data as to accidents related to alcohol abuse at sea. We
hear about stray incidences like EXXON VALDEZ, where Master though having claimed to be consuming beer was not actually conning the ship at the time of the grounding. He was in the radio room, communicating with charterers and owners.
Alcohol world over is considered to be a validated social medium. Not being under influence of alcohol when taking a responsible job is understandable. But why he should he be deprived of it when he has leisure time? It is uderstandable for pilots who maximum remain in the air for 12 hours. Offshore rig staff work on 15 days on 15 days off. A seafarern on an average today sails for 6 continuous months. Depriving him of this relief as leisure is adding to the fatigue
This has entirely destroyed social life onboard. Those who have to drink will manage to do so, in secret and alone, and that is worse. There use to be exchange of jokes, light moments and healthy interaction in onboard bars. It used to be a place to share happiness and sorrow.
Today we see grim faces only in alleyways, with no social contacts with fellow shipmates.
Depriving seamen of alcohol has been a major contributing factor to fatigue at sea. There can be norms for controliing abuse but to enforce 0 alcohol ploicy is not right. Surprisingly, no seafarer organisation has objected to this practice of 0 alcohol even at the cocktail parties thrown after discussing these issues at the many seminars on the subject.