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Monday, 12 December 2011

Why should LSA, FFA and Medical Chest upkeep NOT be shore responsibility?

When head-counts were reduced onboard, they went up by multiple ashore, and continue to do so. In addition, there is no shortage of external sub-contractors for everything, to assist the poor guys ashore clocking in their 40 hours a week with lunch and tea breaks thrown in.

The workload onboard, however, went way up there. The Master is now too busy counting bedsheets and pillow covers and it goes on from there.

So, here's what one suggests, also in the interest of getting a grip on realities.

Quick thoughts on maintenance of LSA and FFA equipment onboard ships, as well as Medical Chest and other specific emergency equipment, which is not in regular use but only on an "as required" basis when the need arises. Thanks to gCaptain for the idea, here:-

Frankly, the workload onboard as well as the commercial pressures from ashore with increased communications are so heavy, that the first casaulty onboard modern ships are the LSA, FFA and medical chest requirements. A few small tests that I have used personally on the last ship I sailed on a few months ago, as well as by asking people who work on or visit ships, show me that things are worse than before.

There is no point in specifying details here, we all know about the lifeboat that will simply not be lowered except in the calmest of weathers in port, the rust expanded pins in the quick release lifebuoys, the provisions from the boat that were stolen in some port, the painters used for some other purpose, the fire-suit which makes movement impossible, and more.

As seafarers, unless we are working for companies where the work ethics and attention to details like this have over-riding importance, we know that in the rush to "get things done", LSA, FFA and medical chest take a back seat. Why we seafarers would put this aspect behind is something sociological I have never understood - till I came ashore at an early age and realised that the quality of life of the seafarer onboard and his safety is about the last thing on the mind of  most ship-managers and their staff.

Frankly, in many cases, it is almost as though there is some sort of hatred at the offices where people are dealt with, still called "crew department" or similar, for the man onboard the ship. None of the rapidly evolving concept of HR (Human Relations) for us - we don't even deserve a pension fund or Provident Fund with a company contribution. And nothing reflects this better than the way LSA, FFA and medical chest are treated like a survey to survey item by all and sundry.

So here's a solution that the DG Shipping may consider as an implementation item, to start with on all Indian flag ships and subsequently put up to the various bodies including the IMO which make up the maritime world's lawmakers - make the DPA of the shipping company absolutely responsible for the LSA, FFA and Medical Chest on Indian flag ships as a shore maintenance job.

Whether done by a shore workshop, or by the Marine Superintendent using external contractors when the ship is in port, there needs to be some specific accountabilities and responsibilites that the shore management need to take. As well as liabilities if things go wrong.

How about it, does it work for us, ashore? Or does human life onboard remain a line item, unchanged since the days of seafarers being kidnapped from bars ashore and being forced to work on sailing ships of yore?

Our fellow ex-seafarers working ashore will be the last to suggest this, the shipowners will obviously resist this, the regulatory bodies are thoroughly controlled by the shipowners, so it is left to those sailing onboard, or the maritime media, to PUSH this through with the authorities.

Those onboard are, obviously, worried about their jobs. So maybe, the authorities would help?

But then, will that work, when most of our "authorities"look forward to post retirement avenues in the same companies!!

Speak up, and as said before, confidentiality totally guaranteed. 

Soon publishing responses I have got from active seafarers.


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