A New Look at BRM

This is the result of a two year project I’ve been working on with ATC and Long Beach Pilots. It’s been a true bear of a project but we believe it will save lives. So… If you are master, mate or pilot please download the pdf and the post us some feedback.

Thank you shipmates!!!

P.S. Many thanks to @Earl_Boebert1 and @Kennebec_Captain for helping in the early stages of this.


Absolutely love this! Capt. Livingstone is one of the very best!

Great article! Love this and I think things like this really can prevent tragedy.


Thank you for the kind words! I’m hopeful we can keep pushing on the need to rethink BRM.


Not a master, mate or pilot but never let that stand in the way of giving feedback I always say.

Nice to see all this information gathered up in one place. Appreciate your hard work.

But do you think many of the issues you attribute to faulty BRM may indeed derive from faulty implementation of a SMS?

The inappropriate, redundant, defective checklist is the classic addle minded shore-side smarty pants solution to designing a SMS. This is not a blanket condemnation of checklists, as you point out in the paper they are a tool. When used properly you get good results but tools can be abused. When all you have is a hammer…

I’m not sure if the “displaced knowledge and skills” section really made the case that “improved technology displaced specialized knowledge and skill sets” but then again I don’t work on the bridge. I have no doubt the application of “new technologies” can add to the cognitive burden with debatable results. Again the sand crabs ashore have a way of “layering” technology, procedures, “solutions” in general without due regard to the big picture, unintended consequences, work load etc.

When decisions in the office result in a more stressful, maybe even demoralizing work place within which your team is trying to operate safely does that represent a failure of BRM skills? Agree the more skilled one or the team is with resource management skills in general the better chance of success but certainly efforts to control the environment can not be overlooked. Perhaps beyond the scope of this paper. Although you do seem to hint the shoreside ship management aspect within the “Global Resource Management” section.

Masters in the office, MBA’s, accountants, lawyers doesn’t matter if they don’t DO their job or better CARE about their job.

Lens vice lense
Gnaws vice naws


The point we were trying to make is that mist sms procedures don’t take into account BRM or prudent seamanship. We thought about mentioning sms but decided that doing so would have pulled the reader’s attention away from brm.

But, yes, we have more work to do on that part. The part on Global Resource Management was a last minute addition I insisted on including and wrote myself.


Downloaded this for myself and the other bridge officers.

1 Like

It’s a good idea to teach basic BRM to officers in training but by the time they reach Chief Mate / Master they need a refresher, maybe and advanced level class. Especially since many of them will unlearn everything by then by working with captains that don’t utilize it properly.


Science advances one funeral at a time.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. - Max Planck


I imagine Galileo said something very similiar.

1 Like

In the article, John Platsidakis honestly points to the problem. As much as I appreciate John Konrad’s holistic view of ship management, we are primarily driven by regulatory compliance. It is not necessarily out of ignorance but more out of survival. In the instance of a tanker, compliance for ship managers means answering to Port State, Class, USCG, EPA, STCW, MARPOL, IMO, ISGOTT, ICS, Charterer, Terminal, as well as local State and Port customs and requirements (California has an alphabet of offices imposing some regulatory restriction on ships). Being good stewards of our environment we comply with all. Prudent Seamanship means nothing in the court of regulatory opinion. The only exception is when the regulations fail. Then and only then is the rule of Prudence invoked, you should have known better. Some of us do know better. Those who do not rely on paperwork and the defense of “I did what they wanted me to do”. ISM fuels a cottage industry of auditing and inspection. Matrices such as certificates and checklists quantify policy and procedure. Auditors use these data points to measure the “health” of an operation from a regulatory perspective. The problem is that the data only measures clerical skills and is devoid of any sense of seamanship. What is now referred to as BRM (Bridge Resource Management) is just one of many shipboard processes that have fallen victim to regulatory quantitative analysis.

1 Like

Isn’t this what the whole paper was trying to convey? That what you mention:

Is something we should all be looking to improve? It doesn’t fully apply, but the quote in Full Metal Jacket where the main character states “the marines don’t want robots, they want killers” could be applied to mariners. A ship doesn’t need checklist drones, it needs sailors.

This should not be what it exists for though. I have sat through ISM audits where the auditor never left the conference room and only went through paperwork and pieced together the 4 deficiencies they needed to come up with to justify their paycheck. It is a broken system if you are only checking to see if the paperwork and checklists have been completed. It is utter bullshit at that point.

I’m not trying to beat on you, but being told by (I’m assuming you are a ship manager) that this is the way it is and we all just need to deal with it isn’t going to get anything changed. I applaud all in involved with this paper for at least discussing a better option and a return to skill based seafaring. This should not be an outside the box concept.

1 Like

I’m not a manager, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express.

1 Like

A couple of points from an outsider:

With regard to checklists, we are bedeviled by the same logical limit that bedevils all who work in safety and security: “necessary but not sufficient.” Certain checklists are necessary, but it is the thesis of the paper (which I support) that no amount of checklists will ever be sufficient. That is not an argument for getting rid of checklists, but rather a statement of the problem that the community has to come up with an augmentation to checklists that reaches sufficiency.

With regard to the OODA loop, I regard that it is a proper model to structure discourse on the problem stated above. I would suggest more effort be spent on the first “O” (Observe) and in particular the issue of non-visual cues and their importance. One can visualize a spectrum of access to non-visual cues ranging from Capt. McLaughlin of the “Glory of the Seas” on one end and the operator of a remotely controlled vessel on the other. Standing on the open quarterdeck of his ship, McLaughlin had access to just about all cues as to its status and the state of the ocean: sounds, motion, spray, the works. The remote operator is limited to what is displayed, and in today’s world that is almost exclusively visual information.

In reading reports and comments I get the impression that the ship designers are moving more toward the remote operator end of the spectrum, “cocooning” the crew in a sterile environment. This may not be a good thing, and is an issue that IMHO is worth a systematic examination and inclusion in the report.




Well I had never hear of OODA. Once upon a time not so long ago I had never hear of BRM or closed loop communication ether.
I have just read the report or article for the first time, I am still trying to figure out the point the report is getting at.
To some extent it reminds me of me. When I am doing my grumpy old git impression. I would never have mentioned OODA or sailing ships rounding the Horn. On one of my rants about young guys nowadays.
One of my favourite rants. About BRM. BRM is not new. I was taught BRM, only we didn’t call it BRM over 40 years ago by some Grumpy Old Gits. Who were taught 40 years earlier by Even Grumpier Older Gits.
It was referred to as Good Seamanship. Or The Ordinary Practice of Good Seamen often practiced by another Grumpy Old Git frequently referred to by examiners as The Prudent Mariner.

At first I didn’t like check lists. I thought you should know your stuff. I thought I knew mine. I didn’t need them. Until I forgot something. I used to be the one guy on the Bridge until the Pilot boarded then It would be the Pilot and me most of the way. I learned quite a lot by interacting with the Pilots.
Today I do my own Pilotage.
We are expected to use BRM, Closed Loop Communication, Check List, Passage plans, VTS ECDIS AIS ARPA possibly even look out the window occasionally. Its all in the SMS, FOM and the VSM and the same old generic MSO used by everyone and his cousin. Oh and all the F’ing Check Lists.

Boxes all ticked everyone is happy.

I think the point the authors are trying to make is.

It doesn’t replace good basic fundamental practices which have been in use since before all this modern technology was developed.

Good BRM makes full use of both the old traditional techniques and the new technology including relevant checklists.

Unfortunately one or the other is often not utilised.

Within my limited operation, We have occasional problems and near misses. BRM, Complacency, Poor Communication, Not using the checklist, All play their parts. So has just plain old not looking out of the window.
Hopefully training would fix this.
Not so much, Shit still happens.
Result yet another policy, more check lists, more compulsorily settings dictated from a managerial desk ashore based on some article written by an academic seafarer or worse a committee at the IMO.

1 Like

The problem of operating ships at sea has three main elements, the ship itself, the environment and the human element.

How much sense does it make to spend a life time studying the sea, the operation of ships and ignore questions of how humans actually behave?


One thing I think that gets lost often with the use of checklists (and especially with their constant comparison to those used by aircraft pilots) is that they should be used for verification and not as a to-do list.

My company has checklists for arrival, departure and watch turnover. I emphasize to my mates to do everything they can on those lists by memory and once they believe they are done, go to the list and verify it was actually done. Using a checklist as a verification tool still forces one to actually think through what they’re doing and not simply mindlessly follow a “one size fits all” approach to a situation.

Airline pilots are not using checklists to tell them to put the landing gear down or select the proper flap setting in an approach. Rather they are used to verify that what should have already been done, is actually done. In the same sense, we shouldn’t be using them to remind us to setup a pilot ladder or clear the anchors on an arrival.

1 Like

Correct on all counts. Checklists are necessary, useful up to point, and easily abused by people who a) are observing at a distance and b) see them as a combination of to-do lists and remote control.

As far as BRM being nothing new, if you read the 1979 NASA report that started the CRM movement, what they were doing was documenting and codifying things that experienced pilots had been doing for decades.

It should be noted that many of the senior pilots at that NASA conference were trained and mentored by pilots who had flown transport and heavy bombers in WWII. It took 10 men to run a B17, and raids required intricate coordination within and between aircraft. (The Brits formed up 1000 bomber raids at night under radio silence.) Teamwork was life-critical, day after day.

So BRM and CRM and -manship go way back, maybe to Homer. A lot of old wine in new bottles in the safety business.




Indeed but so much non-mission critical stuff gets into the head and workspace of today’s mariner that nobody has the time to savor the old wine.

There also isn’t the time for sea-stories anymore. The crews of those 1,000 RAF planes spent a lot of time talking about near misses and they spent a lot of time laying in the rack thinking about ways not to get killed on the next mission.

That spare time has been sucked away by paperwork (on the business end) and the internet/tv/etc (on the leisure end).

Few people come up to the bridge after watch nowadays to “shoot the shit”, poker games are almost gone and coffee breaks during training classes have been shortened to cram more class time in.

We tried to keep this paper short but the full curriculum was a week long class were we brought captains into the simulator and had them run through difficult scenarios multiple times so they could test assumptions and gain new perspectives. Lots of time was given to let them talk through the problems.

Many of the captains did these things instinctively but they didn’t know why so they were unable to communicate it to junior officers.

The material is as old as time but it takes time and good mentors to learn.

Yes and a good checklist needs to be adaptable. Below every checklist I’ve done I wrote a box labeled WDTT or What’s Different This Time. I also had a private checklist in my tally book of things I tend to forget to do. I also had a list of what I had to remind certain crew members to remember.

But many companies send the same checklists to every ship in the fleet and don’t allow local changes. These checklists tend to be too generic and not useful at all.

“…the checklist takes on a life of its own”

Truer words never spoken. Recently, in another thread, somebody wrote, “they’re not interested in actually safety, but the appearance of safety.” (I believe that the “they”, in this case, was the office). Both of these statements point to a “tail wagging the dog” mindset so pervasive, that it’s slowly eroding both professional skills and the faculty of critical thinking, a.k.a., “prudent seamanship.” The article points out, quite astutely, that a “prudent seamanship” mentality once permeated society. Today, not so much :frowning_face: