Will the El Faro Cause a Rethink of BRM/MRM* Training?


We had a potentially dangerous engineering casualty on a ship I just signed off of. We made the right phone call, did not freak out and got the Chief down there out of bed and we had everything straight in a few minutes. Not surprisingly, the bridge did not inform the Capt right away. Very disconcerting. Things must change. Get the old man out of the sack, that’s what he or she is getting paid big money for.

A sea change must happen. It must happen in that void between the ears first.


In my experience this is common. It’s a well known problem the stovepipe.

A stovepipe organization has a structure which largely or entirely restricts the flow of information within the organisation to up-down through lines of control, inhibiting or preventing cross-organisational communication.

It seems like a problem with the bridge watch but if it’s not surprising that it happend maybe the chief shouldn’t have trusted that path. He could have told the bridge to call the captain.


Yeah, nothing like sitting down to breakfast and hearing “heard you had a problem last night Chief/Captain” and not having a clue what they’re talking about.


This is a big deal for me. The “problem” of running a ship is a nut best cracked by evaluating situations with people who do not think alike.

Almost anytime a non-routine situation comes up I at least give the chief the outlines. Same thing with the E/R stuff.

If we were going to encounter a hurricane the chief would ask for an explanation of principles of avoidance. Then he would use that information to evaluate the actual plan. The chief will do a far better job at poking holes in the plan than the mates.


A couple of personal anecdotes. I am not sure where they fit into the overall subject of this thread but it has to do with interpersonal relationships aboard ship.

When I was a young 3rd I got a job on a ship where the Chief was considered a real asshole and hard to get along with. That is probably how I got the job as no one else threw in for it. I ended up getting along extremely well with him. I found the key to getting an idea across was to present it in such a way that he could claim some degree of ownership of that idea. The conversation usually started off along the lines of “Chief, what do you think of …?” [ mitigated speech] He also had very high standards and did not put up with sloppy workmanship but that is another subject.

There was an incident when I was Relief Chief that involved a small oil spill. There was a mechanical failure when the barge was blowing out their hose which caused some oil to go in the water. It didn’t help that it was raining to boot which just added to my inconvenience. After getting the situation stabilized I made the required notifications to the USCG and the company’s oil spill response contractor. When I called the captain his response was, “What are you calling me for?” I told him I figured he might want to know.
The next day I was ashore to face the music with the Head of Engineering. I assumed I would be canned. By that time he had heard back from a repair contractor he sent down to check things out. He said" I firmly believe everyone should be afforded one mistake." He then looked down at the repair contractor’s report. “This wasn’t your fault (re: oil spill) but you just had your one mistake.”


On many/most workboats you don’t call the captain when he’s off watch. I’m used to handling everything on my own, manifests, paperwork, arrival/departure, and engineering casualties. When I switched to working on ships I had a hard time knowing what exactly required me to call.