During one long stand-by (about 10 hours), the duty engineer was so tired he mistakenly made an operational error of shutting down the second cooler (which was already open) in the central cooling system thinking that he was opening the cooler to the system, creating a bit of a panic when the main engine jacket cooling water temperature started rising rapidly. The situation was brought under control without any disastrous consequences. Had it not been detected and corrected sooner the consequences would have been that we would have lost engine power when it was required the most to overcome counter flow and drift. Due to very short sea passages between ports, fast turnaround / short port stay, combined with long stand-by duties and broken rest periods, fatigue and tiredness was setting in very fast.
We were only three engineers, including the Chief Engineer in the engine room, plus one Electrician with no watch keeping experience or watch keeping certificate.
The engine room is un-manned during the night, with 2nd or the 3rd engineer responsible for 24 hour duty cover from 0800 to 0800 next day. The duty engineer for the day is also responsible for preparation of the
main engine for arrivals and departures and all stand-by duties that will fall within his 24 hour duty period. With only three engineers on board, the Chief Engineer covers all the stand-by duties, arrivals, departures, river and canal passages 24/7 as back-up to the duty engineer. This is to satisfy two of the company safety policies, i.e. every stand-by must be attended by two engineers in the engine room and Chief Engineer must be present in the engine room during all stand-by’s (the duration of stand-by duties are from the time engine is rung Stand-by to Beginning of Sea Passage for departures and End of Sea Passage to Finish With Engine for arrivals). The Electrician also attends all stand-by duties but his physical presence in the engine room is required only during the crucial phases of the stand-by, e.g. docking and un-docking and during bow thruster operation. On this particular run, it is a matter of time before tiredness and fatigue will contribute to a major accident / incident, in the Engine Room, on Deck or on the Bridge.
You may well ask how the above is possible when every seafarer has to abide by STCW rest periods. This is the biggest “Con Game” ever introduced by the IMO especially for vessels on short haul and coastal trade voyages. The recording of these hours is carried out without any checks on actual hours worked by the seafarer, all assume the seafarer is recording these hours truthfully. If you do record them truthfully and your rest hours are outside the minimum, you will be soon asked to amend them to keep in within the regulatory rest hours by the Master before they are being filed away and a copy sent to the Office. On many occasions, I have been told by Masters that they have no power to delay sailing after the cargo work has been completed.
This report was forwarded to the vessel operator, who provided the following edited comments:
“As a company we try to keep in touch with the workloads our ships are facing and have taken action where we think necessary. For example on the introduction of the ISPS Code we put Administration Officers on ships calling at more than 10 ports/month and on an ad-hoc basis ships that we see are in demanding trades will have engineers, cadets or ratings added to the complement to help with both maintenance and day-to-day operations.
However, before we can make decisions on increasing the complement of a ship we must have an open dialogue with the senior officers onboard. Without good information coming from the “sharp end” we here in the office cannot make good decisions about how we should operate our ships.
Nevertheless, we are not ignoring this matter and we will send a Marine Advisory to our fleet reminding them of the work / rest hours regulations, where information can be found in our Safety Management System and what to do if it is found impossible to abide by the regulations.”
The Company has requested CHIRP to provide more details to allow it to take more specific measures and CHIRP is discussing what steps might be taken with the Reporter, but believes, once the Marine Advisory has been produced, it should be easier to raise these concerns with the company directly.
During a recent series of CHIRP presentations many of the participants confirmed Hours of Rest records are often inaccurate and had similar experiences to this Reporter. CHIRP has even been informed verbally of a company time recording system which does not permit the entry of “true” hours if they do not comply with the regulations.
Any discussion on Minimum Manning is likely to consider the hours seafarers are recording; if those hours are incorrect to a significant extent, what are the chances of those discussions leading to valid conclusions? This is an issue of global importance.
If you have concerns about the hours you are resting/working and those you are recording or permitted to record, let CHIRP know. Remember, your report will not be released to anyone else without your consent.