At 0200hrs on three successive nights, crew members were awoken by loud machinery noises and vibrations being transmitted through the ship’s structure. On each occasion the noise persisted intermittently for between 2 and 4 hours until 0600hrs. The sound level in a cabin was measured by a crew member as between 78 and 86dB. It was apparent that the noise and vibration was being caused by the deck ratings using mechanical scaling equipment on the car decks below the accommodation and passenger areas. The occurrence of the interruption to crew members’ sleep was reported to the chief officer on the first morning at the head of department meeting. He acknowledged that the job is unsuitable to be carried out during the middle of rest hours; he apologized and gave assurance that this would not happen again. However, the following morning and after each subsequent occurrence it became clear that the deck ratings were disregarding his instruction to postpone the scaling of the decks. On the third morning the ongoing problems were highlighted informally to the captain by several crew members, nevertheless, the scaling continued at 0200hrs each night until I left the vessel. All crew members, inclusive of the master, have agreed that this job should have been carried out at refit. However, refit was only 5 days, so it could not be accommodated into the refit plan.
Lesson Learned: The ideal solution for all parties would have been to have the job executed at refit, when workers were living ashore in hotel accommodation. However, due to commercial pressures, refit was only 5 days long and other jobs took precedence. In addition, the Chief Mate, was either not succinct in his communications to the deck ratings, or, individuals deliberately subverted his authority, be it for malicious interruption of sleep, or impatience at not being able to carry out the job.
CHIRP contacted the ship managers, who stated the source of the noise was from mechanical deck scaling needle guns and the use was scheduled / restricted to 1 hour before to 2 hours after watch handover to minimize disturbance. The instruction was not communicated clearly to the crew and the company will seek to improve in this area. In addition, works of this type will be carried out whenever possible during the annual dry docking and their general policy is to use deck blasting machines over mechanical methods, as these both provide a better solution and minimize any disruption to the crew.
It is clear the complaint from members of the crew was not fully addressed by the Master and Chief Officer at the time and this compromised the requirement for the crew to be properly rested. If the scope of work is not within the SMS, the adoption of a best practice ‘Management of Change’ process will cover situations where for example, refit work is incomplete before returning to sea. If seafarers encounter occasions where there is a breakdown in the Ship’s SMS, CHIRP will always makes time to review a hazardous occurrence report.
Readers are encouraged to read “Time to wake up to the consequences of fatigue” in the publication “ALERT!” edition 13 January 2007, available free to download from www.he-alert.org