This incident I would rate as a potentially hazardous one, interfering with the effectiveness of the Bridge Team.
I had boarded the ship at the pilot station for inward transit to the berth. The Pilot/Master exchange was completed with no problem and we proceeded inwards.
About 45 minutes into the Pilotage, the bridge door was flung open and a Superintendent strode onto the Bridge and proceeded to give the Master a good 5 minute tirade in the middle of the Bridge. I was not particularly concerned at this time, the ship was on a straight run with no other traffic around – it was slightly distracting but, if anything, it was extremely embarrassing for the Master to be on the receiving end of this language in front of me, the helmsman and the officer of the watch.
After a while the Superintendent disappeared and everything settled down and carried on as normal, including discussions on the berthing arrangements, all that had been previously discussed at the exchange but which is often best repeated before it happens.
Subsequently the Superintendent returned and started having a loud conversation with another person at the back of the Bridge. Again it was an ‘overbearing’ conversation and by now we were about ten minutes from where the complicated part of the Pilotage would commence. Everybody else on the Bridge seemed drawn to this loud conversation going on behind and it was starting to irritate me greatly. I turned and said very loudly “Excuse me!” I then proceeded to explain quite clearly and forcibly why his conversation needed to be terminated immediately. The Superintendent was initially taken aback. He recovered his composure after a few seconds, apologised, shook my hand and departed from the Bridge. The passage then proceeded without incident and the ship was safely berthed.
One of the primary ways in which individuals can improve safety is by intervening to correct an unsafe situation. This the reporter did by interceding, politely but firmly.
For superintendents and managers, this report may act as a prompt to consider one’s own style of communication and management. It is paramount that the ship’s staff must not be distracted from operating the ship safely. If an important discussion is needed, it is a useful discipline to first ask the question: “Is this a suitable and safe time for us to discuss…?”
If it is not safe, the Master or Officer should say so. (For example, “I have to concentrate on navigating the ship right now, but when we get alongside I will be able to give you my full attention”.) The Master is responsible for the safety of the vessel; shore staff must be careful not to undermine his/her authority in this, but rather should reinforce it.