Agreed and they are not alone in operating this way. While a company like Maersk may have a fully staffed operations team actively monitoring the fleet and standing ready to assist during emergencies… small operators can’t afford this luxury. Even some of the large companies that do man these centers with operations guys with MBA’s rather than masters and chiefs.
What I would like to see is an emergency monitoring collective among small operators lead by actively sailing masters and chiefs given a one year sabatical. Each company would pay a modest subscription fee for the system. The facilities could be found at a government or academic establishment to start. I would also like to see topic experts man the facility including a weatherman, salvage master, communications expert and a naval architect with shiyard experience (who else?).
The center would serve as a resource any master or chief could utilize that would assist the ship as needed. The center would be aware of the financial and regulatory requirements of the ship and the pressures on the master but would not be looking at the problems from the perspective of cost savings or regulatory punishment.
We, of course, have this system already. As a senior officer and master I frequently encouraged our officers to pick up the phone and called the masters of other ships in the fleet. We’ve called NOAA directly and challenged their forecast. We’ve called VTS the day before arrival to check port conditions. We’ve called the GPS watchstander in Colorado. And we were constantly on the phone with equipment manufacturers to ask questions about a radar setting, dp algorithm or hidden menu in the ecdis.
Once we all crowded around the phone speakerphone as the bosun dialed the local coast guard station to ask a question that came up in a safety meeting about how an FRC could best assist a helicopter during an mob search. And the pilot we talked with was thrilled that we called.
But I do not think that calling other ships or topic experts directly and admitting your ignorance in a specific area of your job is something that most masters do. And I don’t think my own company would have allowed it if we didn’t have an unlimited satellite calling plan paid for by the client (all calls to the center I proposed would have to be toll free to iridium callers and paid for by the collective or donated by sat phone providers).