Watch Officer Competence Questioned

bridge officer

By Wendy Laursen 2015-06-17 18:53:41

The UK Confidential Reporting Programme for Aviation and Maritime (CHIRP) has questioned the training of bridge officers after receiving confidential reports about incidents at sea.

“A report we have received related to very serious concerns over the competency of an Officer of the Watch (OOW) Deck,” says Captain John Rose, Director of Maritime at CHIRP. “Despite onboard coaching over a period of two days whilst in port, the individual made many serious errors during bridge watches. These on occasion put the ship at risk. 

“We have also received concerns regarding the quality of officer training. This includes a reduction in the amount of qualifying bridge watchkeeping time in exchange for attendance on a bridge simulator course. Reports also challenge the quality of mandatory training and issuance of certificates. In one case certificates were issued prior to the completion of the course.”

Rose now questions whether the current system of training and certification, in some countries, is in the best interests of the industry. He urges anyone encountering a problem to use the Safety Management System (SMS) and report the hazardous occurrence to the ship managers. “We believe any reluctance to use the SMS indicates a weakness in the safety culture onboard. It is also a lost opportunity to reveal weakness in the recruitment process, or the need for additional training in some circumstances or preparation for particular assignments. 

“If the company does not react to the report, the details should be sent to the Flag state of the vessel that issued the certificate or endorsed the initial certificate of competence for service on that ship.” Rose says a confidential CHIRP report can also be made.

DISREGARD FOR COLREGS 

In another example of problems occurring on the bridge, Rose cites this anonymous report: 

“We were sailing from Cherbourg to Southampton via the Needles on a 10 meters sailing yacht equipped with an AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponder and active radar reflector. Visibility was about four miles, our speed about eight knots. As we crossed the eastbound shipping lane, several AIS targets were approaching on the port side and eventually became visible. 

“One was of concern because the closest position of approach (CPA) was almost zero. The speed of this ship, the xxxxxxx, was about 18 knots. After monitoring the situation for some time, I called up on VHF radio and informed the crew who answered, that according to our AIS our CPA was near zero. The response was “I agree.” I then asked if he planned to alter course to avoid risk of collision and he replied in the negative.

“I politely pointed out that we were a sailing vessel and the stand on vessel under the Collision Regulations and asked once again if he would alter course. The reply was “I could do but I’m not going to.” I decided at this point that further discussion was unlikely to be productive, ended the conversation and instructed the helm to turn 20 degrees to port and harden up the sails. This allowed us to pass behind the ship by a safe distance.”

The lesson learned, says Rose, is do not assume that another vessel will take avoiding action even if it is aware that a risk of collision exists.

CHIRP contacted the ship’s manager who forwarded the information to the ship and subsequently discussed the report when the superintendent visited the ship. Unfortunately the crew had changed before the report had been received by the ship. The master appreciates CHIRP publications and the in depth analysis of dangerous situations but after several months it was difficult to reconstruct a specific situation. The master stated the use of VHF unfortunately causes confusion a lot of the time.