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Seafarers Need to Speak Up and Say No, to Undue Commercial Pressure

· Leadership,Safety Culture,Loss Prevention

Interesting week indeed.

Revelations by Shipping Watch on faking documents for trading tankers to Israel 

A reputed company seems to have issued detailed instructions to the crew to fake log books, voyage plan, name of the ship, funnel mark and even the garbage record book, incinerator log etc till 2019, while each and every shipping company with ISM certification has stringent policy and procedures against falsifying records, anonymous reporting by any crew to DPA or any other top management personnel on shore.

Good that the company has confirmed that it has been stopped since 2019 and investigations are being held by the Danish Maritime Authority, as per Shipping Watch.

Suez Canal blocked by stranded Evergreen boxship

"An Egyptian official who spoke to the Associated Press confirmed that efforts to remove the ship would take at least two days and blamed a strong 50 km/h gust of wind for the accident", as reported in Splash

It's interesting to learn from the investigation report as to the extent of risk assessment carried out on board and whether the Master and the Suez Canal authorities had considered to delay the transit of the 399 mtr long container ship, which has a lot of windage, in the prevailing weather conditions.

We have been hearing about the recurring loss of containers at sea, and mega container ships arriving ports with huge number of containers shifted at sea in heavy weather on vessels operated by reputed container liners. Wonder whether the Masters of these ships were under commercial pressure to arrive on schedule, regardless of the heavy weather and whether they weren't allowed to reduce speed or remain "hove to" in heavy weather for safe carriage of cargo.

Isn't it time that Masters and seafarers speak up, and

  • do not just follow unsafe instructions blindly
  • do not succumb to commercial pressures
  • politely decline such unsafe/unlawful instructions
  • do what's safe for the crew, environment, the cargo and the ship?

There are several more examples.

Capesize bulk carrier "Wakashio" grounding in Mauritius in July 2020 with pollution and Total Constructive Loss. This modern vessel had no internet on board. If the Master and Officers had the courage to speak up, and demand internet on board, they wouldn't have had to take shortcuts, neglect their duties and responsibilities for navigating the vessel safely, and risk their reputation and career.

Seafarers are undoubtedly, the most important asset of any ship Owner/Manager/Operator for safe transportation of cargoes. With the onset of Covid-19 pandemic for more than a year, haven't the seafarers managed and ran the ships safely, despite much reduced periodical inspection by the shore-based managers and external parties, due to travel restrictions and minimizing ship-shore interface?

Isn't it time for the seafarers to realize that

  • the "ship is managed and run safely by the seafarers of the ship", while the shore-based team render adequate shore-based support?
  • the world is dependent on the impeccable service seafarers provide, despite the crew change crisis for more than a year, with seafarers serving unduly long periods at sea, without shore leave, medical attention, and uncertainty of returning to their loved ones, despite all the international plea for assigning "key worker status"?

If so, isn't it time to speak up and say NO to unsafe/unlawful instructions, and NOT to succumb to undue commercial pressure?

After all every seafarer is briefed to "think safe, work safe, stop unsafe acts, and refuse illegal orders". Why not follow those good protocol?