Modern Management or the Command System?


#1

Hi folks. Allwyn from Australia here. Would like to push in a query here to professional mariners. This is focussing on modern ship management procedures on board today. I have been a Marine Engineer and now work on fleet safety and quality management.

In my dealings with the fleet, i see complicated anti pollution regulations require compliance and understanding mostly from the Chief Engineer. Most if not all Captains do not understand the equipment involved or what goes into making and keeping the ship IOPP or IAPP compliant. At the management level i hear a lot of frustration and complaints about Captains not being able to understand and comprehend basics and thus inadvertantly or advertantly marginalizing support that the Chiefs need. For that reason we implemened a direct hotline for the Chief to the Office without the need to go through the Captain which also was for many a frustrating experience again.

Today everything on board a Merchant ship is an engineering operation. It is impossible and beyond the scope for Ship Captains knowledge or training to know how ships move, how power is created, how water is generated, how fuel is centrifuged, how hydraulic systems work, how safety, backup and emergency buses are linked as systems, how sewage is processed and made harmless before discharge or what goes into the complexities of discharging cargoes using onboard gear etc…

Anything going wrong in these, or literally one can say on the ship is related to some Engineering aspect. Ship Captains do not have the abiliy, skill sets for analytical and higly specialized troubleshooting work that endanger vessels all the time, let alone comprehend the redundancy factor for equipment or spares on board that is absolutely essential for the safe running of the vessel.

[B]No management holds the Captain responsible for such[/B]. They hold the Chief Engineer responsible and it becomes his responsibility to solve that problem to ensure the safety of the crew and the Master included.[I] We did an internal study on critical operations [B]requiring a high skill set[/B] over a large period of time, spanning more than a year[/I]. Over 95% cases involved the skills of the Chief Engineer and his team in either bringing back operations to safe mode, preventing a pollution incident, preventing commercial damage due to delays and in some instances prevention of possible grevious injury.

Moreover we faced a situation where many ship Captains showed high handedness without being able to factor in and able to comprehend the criticality under which the Chief Engineer was working. Some instances including a few Chiefs who resigned and left this company were a direct result of the Captains inability to comprehend a Marine Engineers job.

Times have changed and we are seriously even considering putting up a Cargo Engineer to take care of deck machinery, loading discharge operations, ballast water management, deballast and ballast functions and managing the loadicator towards that end. This would free up the mate also for purely navigational responsibilities.

A Captains skillset requirement today is much lesser than what was say even 15 years ago wih the advent of accurate Global positioning and easy to use Radar and navigational equipment and extremely accurate weather analysis.

[I][B]How would people here feel if i raised the issue of complete executive management responsibility being put on a Chief Engineer instead of the Captain on board, because of his better understanding of the ship and it’s equipment? [/B][/I]

Thanks, and this is not to raise Deck-Engine issues, but serious replies to why this is possible or why it is not. Would be glad to hear views of people on this forum, whether the mindset to share top operational executive management on board is possible yet or not? Or shall we have to continue with the ‘Command’ based system on board for the foreseeable future?


gCaptain Hidden Gems
#2

I wouldn’t touch this with a ten foot pole…


#3

I’ve sailed engine for 10 years and most captains I sailed with know their way around machinery and different systems on their ships pretty well but I’ve yet to see a chief engineer who was good at reading weather, currents different aspects of ship handling and so on. this is just my observation. I’m not trying to hurt engineers egos, like I’ve said I’m in an engine dep. myself.


#4

For f*cks sake, was that a question?

Regardless of what any Chief thinks, he will never be the Captain of the engine room.


#5

[B]“No management holds the Captain responsible for such[/B].”

How about the law?

Try referencing a case in Mobile Alabama a few year back where a bow thruster went out on a small container ship, while topping around, causing the ship to strike the dock and gantry crane killing an electrician that was on the dock crane at the time - The German captain went to federal prison - The Chief engineer went home.


#6

It is impossible and beyond the scope for Ship Captains knowledge or training to know how ships move, how power is created, how water is generated, how fuel is centrifuged, how hydraulic systems work, how safety, backup and emergency buses are linked as systems, how sewage is processed and made harmless before discharge or what goes into the complexities of discharging cargoes using onboard gear etc…
It is? Please enlighten us as to why you feel this way.

I’m not sure what type of discussion you’re looking to prompt, after making blanket statements reflecting poorly on the skillset required of a Master. It is obvious by your post that you hold deck officers in low regard, and they’re tolerated by yourself and your company because they are required to be there. Stupid deck officers. I’m envisioning a conversation in the pilothouse of one of your ships…

Mate: "Duh… Captain, how does this ship thing move?"
Master: "Duh…"
Mate: "Uh, I want some water how do I get it?"
Master: “Duh… twist the thing I think. Duh…”
(Phone rings)
C/E: ""
Mate: “Duh…”

C/E: “
(Mate hands the phone to the Master)
Master: "Uh… how does the poop go away?"
C/E: "From the theory of water-impact of a 2D wedge, Vertical force, ( ) 3 33 f d a V , dt = ⋅ where a33 is the 2D, infinite frequency heave added-mass of the wedge, In the body-fixed system, then, with – X = U·t, t being the time, and V = U·τ, we can write, ( ) 3 33 f U d a U dx"
Master: “Duh…”
(Phone rings, it’s the office)
"Captain, I need your position and ETA to your next port. Put me through to the engine room"
Master: "Duh… mate how do I make this go to the Chief?"
Mate: “Duh… look at all the pretty birds”

Please forgive me if I wander off or completely lose my train of thought, as I am a modern Master and I can’t seem to get my GPS and Radar to answer this for me. I’ll call the Chief, he’ll fix it.

The Master of the vessel by tradition and law holds the ultimate authority and responsibility for his or her ship. A Master who thinks he can do every job on board is a fool. The Chief Engineer who thinks he should be in charge of the vessel is a fool. The best Masters and Chief Engineers I’ve sailed with are able to work well together because of a concept known as “trust”. Your experience is obviously different, and I’d venture to guess that another concept known as “communication” is also missing aboard your company’s ships. Since the advent of steam powered ships there has been a, shall we say, complex relationship between the deck and engine departments. You seem to have hit on a modern office-inspired way to fix this, by minimizing the deck department to merely standing around and handing operational control of the vessel to your Chief Engineer. And wow, you’re even proposing adding crew! There’s a modern concept. I’ll bet you could cut the Mates wages, since all they’re going to do now is watch the autopilot talk to the GPS, to pay for the new whiz kid.

Or, you could explore strategies designed to foster good communication and team building onboard your vessels. This could start with you sailing with the deck department for a month. It sounds like you’ve never been out of the basement. You might learn a thing or two. Before I was allowed to sail as Master, I spent a 28 day hitch in the engine room. I learned a lot by being down there. I’ve had a few Chiefs who I could trust with the controls on the pilothouse too. It’s called “cross-training”


#7

I’m sure glad you guys responded. It’s one of the few times in my life I was at a loss for words. I composed about a dozen posts in response to this, only to discard them. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers.

The stupidity of the origional post had me speechless!

I’ve worked with a couple of great engineers and a bunch of shitty ones. I’ve worked with a couple of shitty captains and a bunch of great ones. Shitty captains on the bridge don’t last long. Shitty engineers seem to last forever.

The Captain ain’t always right, but they’re always the Captain. And the Captain is responisible for EVERYTHING that happens on the ship. Try to blame a broken sling or a weak cargo net or a grounding or a collision or an illegal station bill on the chief engineer.

I’m not trying to stir things up. I’m just making an observation.

Ultimately, the Captain is responsible. As it has been and as it should be. If you want to be the Captain, learn to be the Captain. Otherwise, just be something else.

Nemo


#8

Following your logic, will the facilities engineer at your corporate headquarters be given executive responsibility in place of your CEO?


#9

Allwyn,

Sir…I am surprised anyone bothered to respond to your babble…it is far from worthy of comment!!


#10

[quote=seadawg;15054]Allwyn,

Sir…I am surprised anyone bothered to respond to your babble…it is far from worthy of comment!![/quote]

THAT is the best response I can think of!

I’m sorry I commented,

Nemo


#11

ROFLMAO!! Man I needed that.

Capt. A hit it on the head though, ya’ll need to work on the communication between the wheelhouse and engine room. Your company obviously developed a culture of misscommunication and ultimately mistrust somewhere along the line.

Also if your even contimplaitng removing the captain from the cain of command has got to be the one of the most assinine thoughts I’ve heard in a long time. If you cant trust your captains then you might want to talk to HR about getting some new ones. I would go so far as to say that the Chiefs who are quitting on you have worked under the same captains.


#12

Think of the engine room as a box. Fuel oil, lube oil, parts, sea water, various consumables go in. A turning shaft, electricity, fresh water, steam hot water and so forth come out. Everything inside that box is the responsibly of the chief. Everything outside the box is the responsibility of someone else. There are more things outside that box then you imagine.

It has already been pointed out that by law the captain is responsible for everything that happens on the ship. This isn’t going to change any times soon. Responsibility and authority are two sides of the same coin. No master in his right mind is going to surrender authority while retaining responsibility.

I do think that the “command” model of management works poorly when dealing with something as complex as ship management I agree with Capt A that it requires teamwork and trust.

The Art of Dredging has a good article on this here

As far as having a hot line directly from the chief eng to ashore, I have the chief email the port engineer directly but I have him “cc” me also so I can keep on top of what is going on.

I have dealt with several people who share your views with regard to captains analytical skills and so forth. It does seem to me that often the deck side has a better appreciation for what the engine side does then the other way round. A good mate makes it look easy.


#13

Wow! I got some really certainly hot and determined responses though pretty subjective ones, including some outright name calling. Not par for the course really, but sure does give an indication of the ‘value’ that the present management on board lays in “command” structures.

Well, onboard manangement has already been gently moving away from the “Command” based style of management to “Safety Management Systems”. Thats happened already across all international fleets. However “Masters overriding Authority” has been maintained.

Safety on board has never been enhanced because the Fleet Management or the Ships Master initiated changes. There was a time, when insurance companies were making good money even as loss of life at sea was at it’s highest last century. Ship safety became a major concern only when incidents like Exxon Valdezs’ grounding occurred. Rest safety and and structural integrity of ships improved primarily due to improvements in engineering technology, better enforced redundancy management from ashore, and enforcement of norms in structural construction of different kinds of vessels.

Even implementing basic structures of modern management like preliminary documentation procedures took almost a decade and half to implement, primarily because of entrenched mindsets resisting necessary and overdue changes which would and have made ships safer relatively, easier to analyze records and allow shore and onboard management to implement them more effectively.

Early to mid last century too in many shore based companies resisted Engineers taking the place of professional managers and predicted doom. Nothing of that sort happened, to the contrary industries improved along with working practises. Today in top industries around the world, it is commonplace to see people with an Engineering background in top executive positions.

All i was trying/ attempting to discuss and seek views of forum members was whether without compromising navigational safety, why it is or it is not possible that Chief Engineers cannot hold the top exec position on board a ship. Keep in mind, that “Master’s overriding Authority” is very seldom used in international merchant shipping.


#14

[I]Following your logic, will the facilities engineer at your corporate headquarters be given executive responsibility in place of your CEO?[/I]
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Good question. One must realize there is a difference between a CEO and a Ship Master. A Ship Master functions under the banner of ‘Command’ and not a modern management sysem that shore based CEO’s function. Fact is CEO’s heading say a Power industry can be from a totally different background. The faciliies Engineer in a company manufacturing pickups does not understand many commercial aspects that the CEO does, even though he may be from another background. However if the faciliies engineer say resigns does open his own concern and runs it successfully, he has no legal block to becoming a CEO in the concerned facility.

This is precisely my point. Why should “command” be compulsorily retained only by persons who specialize primarily in the Navigational/ steering aspect of a vessel. Ships today have become increasingly sophisticated on the echnical aspect, while bridge aids and pilot support at harbor entrances mandatory in most countries. Whether it’s orres Straits, Shanghai river, or the entrance to any harbor or dropping off the vessel to deep sea, no country allows Masters to independently navigate their vessels into or out of ports.

Companies do try and look to making their operations more effective and keep expenses down and lay less stress on the sentimental aspect of things.


#15

[I]The Master of the vessel by tradition and law holds the ultimate authority and responsibility for his or her ship

[/I]Indeed. But there is a difference beween power and responsibility. I do not consider Masters that ‘traditionally’ made people ‘walk the plank’, flogged people, introduced press gangs were really responsible to the first basic 101 of a modern safety management system: Safety of people on board.

[I]Please enlighten us as to why you feel this way.[/I]

In our fleet we have many different kinds of vessels, manned by different nationalities. But most of the fresh Engineers we get do around 4 years of Engineering and most have bachelor degree qualifications. They have already studied strength of materials, Naval Arch 4 years apart from the normal diet of Marine/ Mechanical engineering. On he other hand fresh Cadets are right out of high school and do compulsory time for their license requirements on deck. We do get people with better educational qualifications, analytical abilities and skills on the Engineering side than on the deck side.

Just early May on a routine inspection, i personally witnessed a Maser supervising the welding of a support bracket for an LRIT antenna while it was drizzling. I got the operation stopped and asked the Master if he had a hot work permit. My company hot work permits have to be signed by Master. Here he signed it and did not realize arc welding in the rain is a NO NO. Because of the near miss here, we had to take into account that Ship Masters might not appreciate safeties involved in arc and gas welding. So it is important that either the 1st or Chief Engineer signs the permit and then the Master. In other words, we cannot trust the Masters signature on such permits alone as ensuring safety during he operation. Because i have he Chief Engineers sign, in case of a mishap, i will haul the C/E up, not the Master. I hope this small example illusrates some of he difficulties we face in our job.


#16

[B]Dumbass[/B] <hr style=“color: rgb(209, 209, 225); background-color: rgb(209, 209, 225);” size=“1”> Do you think you should be in command of a ship because you know how to dump the shit and put on potable water and fuel? That’s why you’re an engineer and not a deck officer.

Thanks Sir, for your enlightened message indeed. Engineers are Officers in our fleet. The Chief Engineer wears 4 stripes on his shoulder, the same number as the Captain. Having to manage 20 vessels under me, does not allow me the privilege of name calling. It does give me however an overview much larger than individual ship Captains can see. My job is to see people work on their core capabilites, that alone ensures effective delivery of goals and company plans, along with improved safety management. IMHO safe navigation is the Deck Officers core responsibility on board a ship.


#17

"It is impossible and beyond the scope for Ship Captains knowledge or training to know how ships move, how power is created, how water is generated, how fuel is centrifuged, how hydraulic systems work, how safety, backup and emergency buses are linked as systems, how sewage is processed and made harmless before discharge or what goes into the complexities of discharging cargoes using onboard gear etc… "

For what it’s worth Allwyn, I, (and I’m sure others), understand. For me, it was just like Capt A wrote, I benefited from cross training. Have you thought of doing that?

Yes, sounds like a favorite Led Zep title, “Communications Breakdown”.

I’ve often wondered why the Bridge Team has to do “Bridge Resources Management” but, there is no “Engine Room Resources Management”? In fact, I think it could go a step further to “Crew Resources Management”. And no need to wait for the STCW Weenies to force it on you, it could be done as an in-house training conducted by your company.


#18

“i personally witnessed a Maser supervising the welding of a support bracket for an LRIT antenna while it was drizzling.”

So who was doing the welding, one of the ships engineers or a shipyard worker? Now you have a welder training problem.:smiley:


#19

No some ships have a separate Deck fitter for repairs to hydraulic lines etc.
[I]
For me, it was just like Capt A wrote, I benefited from cross training. Have you thought of doing that? [/I]

Yes, i read that. We do as some have stated have some people learning stuff on their own volition. These are not enforced or institutionalized. And even then institutionalized cross training to gain trust (A very important point i acknowledge) does not in any ways take away anything from the notion i put in place before.


#20

[QUOTE=Allwyn;15065][I]
Just early May on a routine inspection, i personally witnessed a Maser supervising the welding of a support bracket for an LRIT antenna while it was drizzling. I got the operation stopped and asked the Master if he had a hot work permit. My company hot work permits have to be signed by Master. Here he signed it and did not realize arc welding in the rain is a NO NO.[/QUOTE]

You don’t need to visit the ship to find the source of your problems, just take a visit down the hall to the [B][I]HR department[/I][/B].

I can’t even begin to summarize all the problems with your arguments but nearly all unlimited deck officers here in the states have University degrees or military training. Many deck officers on this board deal with equipment more complicated than what’s found in their engine rooms ( Dynamic Positioning Systems, LNG cargo, Heavy Lift ballast systems, many others). You can hire these guys in a second but you’re going to have to pay 2 times the salaries you are paying now.

You can’t generalize on an entire profession because YOU are failing at YOUR job to attract or internally develop competent people. It’s like the old joke “Somewhere is located the world’s worst doctor and today someone else has an appointment with him.” Well somewhere there is the world’s worst captain and it sounds to me like he might be on your payroll.

The problem that I have with this thread is that because you are hiring (or promoting, or simply not firing) people that don’t have the common sense not to use electrical equipment in the rain… someone’s going to have a bad accident. And do you know what’s going to come out of that accident? More stupid regulations with a further transfer of power shoreside personnel with little operational experience! Then, in a few years, when a competent Captain has a problem that’s within his ability to deal with, his hands are going to be tied. All because you gave a job to someone who knows little beyond how to pass a license test and you where unwilling (or too dumb yourself) to admit the real problem, so instead you blamed the Capt.

You simply can’t do this on the cheap. You NEED to make the difficult choice of spending money to fix the problem.

Bottom line is… there are thousands of Captain’s that are technically proficient and highly intelligent. Why are you not hiring these guys or developing them internally? That’s what ISM is all about… managing your talent and resources.