A New Look at BRM


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In the security business that’s called “Security Theatre.” (per Bruce Schneier) Maybe we should start using the term “Safety Theatre.” :slightly_smiling_face:




If you want to get a steady stream of visitors to the bridge serve the best coffee in town out of an expensive espresso machine that grinds it’s own beans and can produce a decent flat white from it’s own refrigerated milk. Oh and turn a deaf ear to the bleating from the black gang and when pressed refer to the better hygiene in the glass house.

I appreciate the time Konrad, Livingstone, and Merrigan put into writing this article. There are three elements in the article, BRM, checklists, and Boyd’s OODA loop. The primary subject is bridge resource management. From my perspective I see brm (navigation) as a behavior and level of awareness. However, when behaviors like brm become procedures, the purpose becomes lost in the process. What specific brm behaviors are done well and what behaviors could use improvement? As an example, I’ve heard pilots comment about the cacophony of alarms. Some ships have more than others. Is that good or bad? I dunno, you tell me. In my opinion, the wheelhouse is so polluted with electronic noise the alarms no longer identify the hazard, they become the hazard. A pilot would be in a good position to critique brm behavior since they are exposed to a variety of ships. Grant?

These days a single alarm goes off in the engine room and a vertical illuminated panel of about 5 different indicators instantly identifies if it is the telephone, engine malfunction or whatever. The engineer goes to the control room and with one button silences the alarm or multiple alarms and the display shows each alarm line by line and the alarm is logged. How bloody simple is that!
I’m reminded of an incident when with a machinery breakdown there were so many alarms ringing on the bridge the pilot went onto the bridge wings and shut the door to try and converse with a tug before the ship went aground going up the Elbe.
I had on one occasion a malfunctioning wrong way alarm on the engine room telegraph. The alarm was buried deep in the console and after a very long 30 minutes was finally silenced by a combined effort of 2/M, C/Eng, and electrician. I am thankful it occurred on ocean passage and not during pilotage.

George I agree with most of the comments I’ve read here. It appears to me we’ve all had very similar experiences at sea and ashore. The original intent of BRM/CRM was spot on. Codify the lessons learned from the older generations; what was effective, what worked and as important what did not work. Behavior and awareness are key; part of human element. Yes when BRM becomes a list of what to do’s, procedural, the original purpose is displaced. That goes on long enough and BRM is eventually nothing more than paperwork. What is done well varies greatly from bridge to bridge, company to company. Most professional mariners do their best to practice BRM as written, as required. But as Capt Tony Hogg told me years ago on the MV Sea Lion is; 'Livingstone you can only get five gallons of crap into a five gallon bucket." Except Tony didn’t say ‘crap’. The professional mariner trying to practice BRM as written are overwhelmed by a tidal wave of electronic demands, communications, questions, alterations, exceptions, compliance…it has no end. It’s ludicrous. Apparently many shoreside stake holders believe professional mariners have 48 hour days not 24. We miraculously have twice as many hours in a day to do their bidding. Leaving plenty of time, in their minds, for us to also do our jobs on the ship. Which segues into John’s valid argument about resource management shoreside not just ship side. Full circle I believe mariners do their best attempting to execute BRM but are hog tied by the tsunami of communications/informations flooding the ships computers. That needs to change. As John said mariners need to push back.

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The OODA loop is fractal

There is more than one loop operating at one time and in an organization such as a bridge team individuals will have different loops with different tempos.

Say for example the ship is preparing to enter port and is planning on picking up a pilot. The chief mate is conning the ship and sees visually a ship crossing close ahead. The mate orients to the COLREGS, checks the navigation for deep water and decides to alter course to starboard.

The third mate on watch is at the ARPA and sees by radar plot that the ship has a too close CPA.

In a well functioning bridge team the C/M and mate on watch (a third loop) will also at this point communicate to confirm there is no mismatch between the two individuals observations.

The captain however, may orient not only by COLREGS and navigation but also (fourth loop) by the ship’s voyage plan. The captain has observed that the ship is ahead of schedule and ask the C/M to check to see if a reduction in speed will allow the other ship to cross safely ahead.

Was nice to work on a DP semi as there were 3 equals on the bridge, 2 working one resting and one changed every 6 hours.
All alarms came to us including the engines rooms. There wasnt any engine crew sitting at consoles, all working. All engines start stop etc controlled via us the DPO’s
Worked well.

Life is fractal.




Looking at this incident: Visual Navigation Implicated in Container Ship Grounding

Three crew members on the Bridge; the pilot, the captain and the Chief mate.

From gCaptain: BRM is a process to use all of your available resources during critical operations.

The ship had available the GPS system which cost taxpayers billions of dollars, an ECDIS which is tens of thousands of dollars but it wasn’t being used. Had the C/M glanced at the ECDIS he would have seen the ship was too far off track.

Here is Boyd’s OODA loop from Wikipedia:


So the C/M should have observed the ECDIS and then oriented with respect to the ship’s planned track. His action would be to tell the pilot the ship was left of track.

For the pilot the information from the C/M would have been an observation in the form of “Outside information” which presumably he would use the new information that the GPS held the ship right of track to orient himself.

I agree 100% with the fractal comment.

We debated posting the ooda loop photo in the paper but decided against it. Why? Because the large majority of mariners we tested with treated it linearly.

I believe BRM is mostly well intended and helpful but it’s number on flaw is encouraging linear processing. We haven’t figured out a good way to teach mariners to think nonlinearly.

sounds like an asian airline BRM, captian is boss dont question him, hence they crash a lot.