Net Available Seamanship


#1

Whenever there is an incident it common for shore based commentators to decry the lack of seamanship.

An important point about seamanship is that there is a difference between what level is available at any given time and the theoretical maximum available.

For example just after lunch, the crew is fresh, the ship at anchor in a quiet safe anchorage preparing to get underway after a good night’s sleep. The captain and second mate are in the wheelhouse, chief mate and bosun are on the bow, third mate is available if needed.

Contrast that to a ship transiting the English Channel that has just finished a 7 port coastwise in northern Europe in winter. They’ve dealt with bad weather, pilot delays, dragging anchor, schedule changes, bunkering, port state control and so on.

In each case the theoretical skill level may be the same but in the first case the actual amount of seamanship available is much higher.


#2

This is a normal schedule for an 11300 TEU container vessel
CMA CGM VELA, FAL3-service

FRLEHAVRE DEHAMBURG DEBREMERHAVN BEZEEBRUGGE NLROTTERDAM GBSOUTHAMPTON
31.05.2012 14:00 02.06.2012 13:00 04.06.2012 14:00 06.06.2012 08:00 07.06.2012 02:00 08.06.2012 06:00
01.06.2012 06:00 03.06.2012 21:00 05.06.2012 12:00 06.06.2012 16:00 07.06.2012 14:00 09.06.2012 01:00

-Maneuvring river Elbe up and down, river Weser, river Maas, waterway up to port of Southampton
-Engine repairs in Hamburg, appr. 10 hrs., owners inspection and Captains debriefing (homeport). Crewchange. Discharge of sludge.
-Rotterdam bunkering of 8000 mt HFO, 150 mt Dieseloil, 15 cbm Luboil. Dangerous cargo and surveyor.
-Southampton Port state control
-Normal cargo ops round the clock in each port. Appr. 500 reefer containers, check and connection by ships electrician.
Remark: Working hours in excess of 77 hrs rest per week have to be compensated after leaving frequent port call area.
There is always a high level of seamenship despite the hardships. But shit happens and then we have a lot of wise guys ashore deriving their knowledge from our papers which we didn’t have time to polish to perfection.
There were times when we put our feet up after leaving the channel and nobody dared to bother. Nowadays you are watched from above and have to explain why you arrived 30 min too early at Port Said. It’s only my point of view seen from the engine room but I might not be in Captains shoes…


#3

This is what I’m talking about. The guy who wrote this article on anchoring has no idea why ships are getting in trouble and just assumes it’s because of lower skill levels.

Ships are continually anchoring in all locations, in all weathers, and in
all states of wind and tide. So with such accumulated knowledge, why
are anchoring accidents not a thing of the past? Anchoring is very much
a controlled process. It’s a procedure so often done that any person
attaining command of a ship should have accumulated sufficient
knowledge and experience to carry out an anchoring operation safely.
The evidence suggests that this knowledge is either not being
accumulated or not passed on. Is this in fact another symptom of the
crewing crisis?
The Master picks the time and position to anchor, which anchor and
the amount of cable to be used. The equipment used is simple, visible,
and easily inspected, maintained and surveyed. Only on the rare
occasions of distress or emergency is an anchor suddenly let go
in an uncontrolled manner.

Anchorages are more often full now then in the past for one.

the demand for global trade is driving huge growth in ship traffic in the world’s oceans, with four times as many ships at sea now than in 1992, a new study reports.

That could be a factor.


#4

I asked friends in the German maritime education and training facilities and their almost similar points of view are clear.
Certificates and watchkeeping are governed by the STCW Convention of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Directive 2008/106/EC on the minimum level of training of seafarers. The aim is to unify the education of seafarers on the international level and to define the required minimum skills for different certificates. This aim has to be watched and approved. Most of us seasoned seafarers know that certificates can be obtained in some corners of the planet in dubious ways and cash. The other side of the face is the aim to unify the education of seafarers which practically means that countries with high education levels have to adapt to lower levels in order to economically stand their ground. This is loved by shipping companies in Germany because their involvement in maritime education can be reduced. Even if they receive supports from the government they stash the cash and reduce the practical possibilities for young german mariners to join their vessels. The amount of ships under German flag has decreased considerably over the last years and the maritime know how has flown away.
This said I must admit that Mr. Spencer in his special edition about anchoring (see link above) has a strong point in assuming that knowledge is no more properly accumulated and distributed in the modern seafaring community.
Knowledge is power, comradeship is gone.


#5

I don’t know if skill levels have declined or not. I suspect that the author of the article is just assuming that’s the case.

Are ships having more incidents per anchoring operation? The article doesn’t say.

Ships are getting bigger, schedules are more hectic, anchorages are more crowded. If skill levels are the same more incidents would be expected, but we don’t know if that’s even true or not…

Here’s the whole article, doesn’t say if the incident rate has changed or not. Captains pick the time and place to anchor? I wonder if the writer even has a view of the water from his window?

There have been a significant number of groundings, collisions and
near miss incidents caused as a result of manoeuvring in an anchorage,
dragging anchor or leaving it too late before heaving up an anchor
in poor weather.
These incidents have resulted in the loss of lives, pollution, and costs
running into tens of millions of dollars. Many notable incidents have
been captured on international television and have commanded frontpage
news, allowing worldwide publicity exposure.
Over the past two and half years, the Standard Club has had 40
claims where anchoring has been a major contributing cause.
• 15 lost anchors
• 8 collisions whilst at anchor – dragging anchor or another vessel
dragging anchor and colliding
• 4 groundings as a result of being at anchor
• 5 piracy attacks whilst at anchor
• 6 anchor chains fouled, 3 with other vessels at anchor
• 1 pollution incident
• 1 total loss /grounding
The total claim cost is $12m.
Since the beginning 2007, more than 100 vessels of all types in the
industry operated by a variety of managers, have been involved in a
‘navigational’ incident resulting in a collision or grounding. The majority
were inevitably caused by human error, rather than equipment failure.
Ships grounding as a result of poor anchoring practices are a part of
those statistics.
Ships are continually anchoring in all locations, in all weathers, and in
all states of wind and tide. So with such accumulated knowledge, why
are anchoring accidents not a thing of the past? Anchoring is very much
a controlled process. It’s a procedure so often done that any person
attaining command of a ship should have accumulated sufficient
knowledge and experience to carry out an anchoring operation safely.
The evidence suggests that this knowledge is either not being
accumulated or not passed on. Is this in fact another symptom of the
crewing crisis?
The Master picks the time and position to anchor, which anchor and
the amount of cable to be used. The equipment used is simple, visible,
and easily inspected, maintained and surveyed. Only on the rare
occasions of distress or emergency is an anchor suddenly let go
in an uncontrolled manner.

Here is from an ABS paper.

In many instances the increase in the number and size of oil tankers and bulk carriers has out paced the ability of ports to provide sheltered anchorage locations for these vessels. As a consequence, there has been a growing need for owners, operators and the vessel’s crew to anchor these vessels outside a harbor or similar areas of sheltered water.


#6

I’ll try to shade some more light to the authors article.
I am not from the heavenly realm but from down below. Anyhow, experience has been called in cases of need. And since our cabins were located right under the bridge we always felt responsible for the joint venture „ship”.
I personally experienced one lost anchor in decades. Reason was a defect Kenter shackle. The lead pellet was out and the taper pin probably loose. Good bosuns know where to look and they probably do. A much bigger problem seems to be a crowded anchorage. If the Master has finally picked his time and position and the anchor with so and so many shackles is to water he’ll wait some more time on the bridge to secure his position and check against drifting. He’ll write his orders into the book and retreats to his rightfully rest leaving the mate to watch any changings. In the meantime other vessels will squeeze in and reduce your safe distance. The mate in the chartroom is doing lots of other necessary things. Ships collide that way. Its negligence due to economical vices. You have to send your AB down to do other things than to hang around in the wings and watch the environment.
It happened once that we couldn’t get the anchor up because it was entangled in some wire. We were prepared and quickly carried oxygen and acetylen bottles with spare regulating valve to the focsle and hot cutted the chain.
I know of dragging anchors due to heavy gale but this is not suddenly and unexpected. So probably negligence. I know of problems heaving the anchor with tripping windlasses.
Captains know that they cannot drag the whole vessel with a windlass.
I am not fully convinced that we have a crewing crisis but I am sure that we force our maritime community to do things out of economical reasons contradictory to the rules.
One question : Did you ever keep your AB on the bridge as requested or did you send him down in the wee hours to do some cleaning ?


#7

If there is a problem with ships dragging anchor what is the least you can do? Put on some worthless fluff safety piece.

Time and attention is a limited thing, putting out this sort of stuff just adds to the noise.


#8

Here is another article about anchoring: Navigation in an anchorage and ‘Anchoring Safe Practice’ for cargo ship

First paragraph is the usual obligatory “good seamanship is required”;

Prior approaching an area for anchoring ships master should investigate fully a suitable anchoring position and conduct a planned approach including speed reduction in ample time and orienting the ships head prior anchoring to same as similar sized vessels around or stem the tide or wind whichever is stronger . Final decision to be made on method of anchoring to be used , the number of shackles , the depth of water, expected weather and holding ground. More collisions between cargo ships may occur in anchorages than anywhere else, and while it is very rare for a ship to sink or for lives to be lost, as anchorages are close to land the risk of pollution is high.

Next paragraph is more about the overall situation faced by captains:

Ports have an attitude to their anchorages that ranges from disinterest in where a ship anchors to maintaining designated anchorages within the port areas, which are either on the chart or at the instruction of the port. However, when an accident occurs the port will place the responsibility with the ship, no matter how it occurred. This is because the Master is always ultimately responsible for the navigation of the ship. If he feels that an anchorage is unsafe he should not attempt it.

This is the issue, it’s not a straightforward question of good seamanship, it’s about the fact that the master faces incentives to take on more risk. If 1000 ships a year use that port these incentives increase the overall risk. Of course anyone captain can mitigate these risks with higher skill levels.

Deciding not to anchor may be an acceptable position if the berth will be available in a few hours and the ship has seaway where it can either heave to and drift or slowly cruise around. It is not acceptable where there is a longer waiting time or if the ship has to navigate a long passage back to a safe area. In the latter circumstance it is possible that the ship could miss the berthing time as a result of moving to a safe area having decided that the anchorage is unsafe. Where does the captain legally stand in the face of claims at that point?

Slowly cruising around is not a viable option with a low-speed diesel on heavy oil.

Here is the point, ports, to some extent, have de facto control, just no responsibility
.

It should also be remembered that many ports do not accept that a ship has arrived, for notice or readiness purposes, until the ship has actually anchored in a defined port area anchorage, effectively making anchorage compulsory.

So if the anchorage is not safe the master should not attempt it - but, if you don’t anchor in some ports do not consider the ship to have official arrived, many ports are first come first served. The captains that stay anchored might be the more skilled or more likely the less skilled.

Again, not discussing skill levels of individual captains, half the captains out there have below average skills.