A report outlining a loss of concentration by the helmsman whilst under pilotage.
What the Reporter told us:
On the northern bend in a port approach channel, the helmsman put the wheel to port instead of to starboard. The Pilot and Master immediately picked up on the error and rapidly corrected the helmsman.
A few minutes later the Pilot ordered starboard five degrees helm, but the helmsman seemed to be disorientated and left the wheel amidships. The request was reinforced by showing a hand direction to starboard prior to the helmsman refocusing his attention. Initially the helmsman seemed to be very alert, but his performance deteriorated quite suddenly during the pilotage.
This occurrence was near midnight and reinforces the fact that crew fatigue can creep in at any moment, especially around the hours between midnight and 0300 hours when the body clock is most susceptible.
CHIRP contacted the DPA and were disappointed that there was no response. The Maritime Advisory Board commented that this is an example of effective bridge team supervision, and noted that best practice is to reinforce a helm order with a hand movement indicating direction to ensure that the request is understood.
It was noted that fatigue is a possibility but there are other potential factors which affect the ability to concentrate, e.g. bad news from home. The Board mentioned that the helmsman is an extremely important member of the bridge team and suggested the following best practice:
Know your personnel – the helmsmen should be encouraged to alert any bridge team member if there are any distracting issues, or if feeling fatigued.
The helmsmen should be relieved on a regular basis.
Always have someone to check the rudder angle indicator for correct response to helm orders.
Good company procedures will take the above factors into account.
It was finally noted that fatigue is an ongoing topic at the IMO, and the Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) sub-committee is currently revising fatigue guidelines.