Generating and maintaining shipboard work lists

The ship’s methods for creating and maintaining work lists has come under increasing scrutiny and pressure from both Port State Control and the company to use more formal methods.

The engine department has been using a combination of ABS NSE , Excel spreadsheets and hand written work list while the deck dept has until recently only been using hand written work list made up daily.

Was wondering about others experience regarding having to expand the scope of formal methods for tracking work?

In my experience with using NS Enterprise or any of the other database based maintenance tracking programs, the amount of “standard jobs” created by the managers ashore quickly outpace the efficiency that the ship’s skeleton crews can accomplish. The intentions seem good, but when you add up the hours required to complete some of the jobs, it would be impossible to accomplish even with double the manpower. This can lead to blatant “gun decking” inspections as well as almost criminal amounts of time involved in data entry for the officers.

Show me a ship that has perfectly maintained maintenance records and I will show you a ship that is likely cooking the books to remain compliant with inspectors. Its a hard thing to keep up with and if you wind up with a few weak skilled crewmembers, it can snowball fast. I won’t even start with the triage that is necessary to keep things running with the amount of repairs that are constantly coming up.

Its a zero sum game at times.


We add all jobs to the computer based Planned Maintenance System. Yes, it takes some time to get used to it but it also ensures we do not forget any jobs to be done. It also works a kind if handover to the next crew.

All class / client / port state control demand to see an overview of this system.


They are good especially when the someone ticks all the boxes on the same day to make it look like they have done the work. Office can see that.
The 2 I have used needed programming changes to show start and end of the job times.

The last 3 years before I left the sailing world, I was 1AE. I had my junior officers keep their own independent logs of things they got done that day. This was in addition to my work list I’d write down for them every day. I then transcribed it to a digital log ( word document).

We did this in addition to using NS Enterprise. As someone said its a zero sum game. NS was prety handy once you figured it out.

There are going to be some cases that fall between hand scribbled notes and a full entry into something like NS Enterprise or whatever relational (complicated) database is being used.

If MS Excel is available, instead using a word processing program or whatever, data can be just as easily entered into a flat (simple) database by using Excel “Insert Table” and will be far more useful later.

Enter some data onto the Excel spreadsheet and then use “Insert Table”. I used “Excel for Dummies” to figure it out but it’s fairly simple.

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NSE for everything deck & engine

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The IT world moved to purpose built help-desk software in the 90’s
That allowed fault and fix to be free typed and then searched for subsequent fixes, very useful.
IMHO the software on vessels is just for recording of scheduled maintenance.
Does anyone have a fault fix module in their software yet?

I like popeye “handover to the next crew” … actually, I didn’t see much of that for crews were mostly permanent and knew well before hand what was coming up but the star goes to whoever used “gundecking” … !

I’m not sure what “standard jobs” are and why they would be created ashore? Aren’t standard jobs things like planned maintenance based on machine running hours and the like?

Standard jobs are planned maintenance events, correct. The issue is that people tasked with creating the database of jobs (in my experience) will take a maintenance job that should be one work order and turn into multiple work orders (jobs). Picture a pump inspection that entails 10 separate jobs. This creates a data entry nightmare for the officers and also makes your planned maintenance list obscenely large when it could be pared down to something more manageable.

Once these jobs are in the system they are there forever and requests from the vessel’s to ease the burden are brushed off. Because, well, the office knows better than the boots on the deck plates. Also, making changes is not easy and can only be accomplished ashore.

Just my observations and opinion.

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Ok, that makes sense. I am not familiar with that specific problems but I have gotten an earful from the chief on multiple occasions regarding the parts inventory hierarchy being a mess. The office made it difficult to send a request to make changes and when they do get a request they ignore it.

It boils down to incompetent management.

Say a charterer or company rep comes aboard and finds that a winch is not being greased. Creating a job for that wouldn’t make sense because there is already (presumably) a procedure in place. It’s just not happening for some reason.

I think it would be useful to record that finding along with what action was taken. Otherwise to the company or charterer it looks like nothing happened.

Guess it depends on what you mean by job.

In this example if the concern was documenting an issue like this I think I would create a CM (corrective maintenance) job in the CMMS and the job completion notes would say something like “winch X required greasing following charterer’s inspection of xx/xx/xxxx. Greater attention is required to completing quarterly PM 583-001 correctly. Has been discussed with concerned department head”

The information would be forever in the machinery history for that winch. Of course that is often not enough for the sandcrabs. It would probably be tracked in the SMS discrepancy system too because it involved a third party.

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Have you ever used NS5 or Enterprise? All of this can be done with some ease in this program.

Charterer or vetter comes onboard, and an “audit” is created. Whatever they find gets listed on there, with each item requiring action listed separately.

Say the winch needs to be greased. Yes, it’s a “standard job” that should be done quarterly or whatever. That job has already shown up and has been “completed” in the system, even if it was gundecked.

So then the winch gets greased, a “work order” is created, and that can be linked to both the audit and the standard job. That way the trail can be followed, at least on the computer. Somebody still has to go out with an actual grease gun!

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Typically done by the office because there’s a fleet - so on each of the 10 ships, a lot of the same things need to be done. If you have every ship creating their own jobs, then you end up with chaos.

You can ask the office folk to change or adjust the jobs, or add or remove, based on changes that need to be made.

As someone who has worked ashore and still onboard I appreciate the capabilities of NSE. I can see if they are falling behind on standard jobs, and all of the work for upcoming port stays. Then work with the CE & Capt to try and get as much work done as possible. If they are falling behind on regular work because of day to day catastrophes I can offer some shoreside help. If I am onboard and there is some piece of equipment that is beyond the scope of the engine department or a safety issue, NSE is the place to lay your paper trail. The office folk know that once it’s enshrined there, they must do something about it.

I don’t know what the deck department logs in there at my company but I know it’s not enough. An excel spreadsheet doesn’t provide any history. Not that we need last months details on how you washed down the reefer sockets and greased the handrails. But maybe a sentence or two on the hydrostatic release and why we found it upside down at the COI if you check it every week.


Yes, NS5 for payroll and ordering, engine dept used it for maintenance but not the deck side.

That’s exactly what I was wondering.

What does the deck side use? Just spreadsheets?

There’s a steel learning curve to it, but once you figure it out and embrace the suck it actually makes life pretty good.

I’ve also seen the opposite problem, where what should be multiple separate jobs are all rolled into one huge job. If there are multiple pieces of deck equipment that need greasing they should each have their own job instead of the job being “grease all deck equipment”. First, they’re better tracking and accountability of equipment and second, it’s likely that they’re won’t be time to do them all in one day so it’s more likely someone will actually do the jobs instead of being tempted to just sign them off.