Who should be protected in an emergency at sea?

About 15 years ago when my company’s British auditors said that we needed a better Fire Fighting manual for the ship’s onboard libraries (Crew, Officers and Department Heads) the auditors complied and sent the copies of a Fire Fighting Manual made in the U.K. Of course while its concepts and strategies were perfectly sound, the equipment and terminology were completely alien. Example in the text regarding the firefighters ensemble there were references to “braces”, which is perfectly correct if you are British, but they are not what you put on your adolescent child’s crooked teeth but what Americans call suspenders. This kind of cultural disconnect went on throughout the supplied manual. I went ahead and found what I thought was an excellent manual "Marine Fire Fighting, 1st Edition, International Fire Service Training Association. They are a branch of Oklahoma State University and all the text was in “American” English and illustrated with the same kind of USCG approved gear that you would find on a U.S. Flag ship. The manual was adopted fleetwide. The next year when I told the British auditor what I had done they replied in their unruffled manner: “No skin off our nose, your company asked for a manual, and we added our ten percent and sent them one!” The manual is still available albeit only in electronic form. https://www.ifsta.org/shop/ebook-marine-fire-fighting-1st/75115


Maybe it’s because I came from New England, and maybe it’s because I am old, but we always used “suspenders” and “braces” as interchangeable terms. To me that’s as American as apple pie. “Braces” were popular on men’s suits, in the late 80’s and early 90’s. For some reason they were never called suspenders in that application.

Of course many of the words and phrases that I grew up with are seldom heard today. Young people in American today often speak in a “hip-hop” dialect that I often struggle to understand, but I even find myself picking up some of it.

British English, not American English, is the international maritime language.

The MCA publishes a lot of good, well written, Maritime information. It’s sometimes necessary to google the ocassional word or phrase, but I think that just adds to the learning experience.

1 Like

That is exactly what I argued in another discussion about Maritime communication.

It would be nice if American seafarers would refrain from using “hip-hop” dialect and slang when communicating with foreign ships and seafarers, even if they are in American waters.

Great to know! By the way, which British English do you mean? Geordie, Welsh, Scottish, Scouse, Midlands, Cockney, West Country, Yorkshire or some other?

1 Like

BBC English maybe??

I was one of those ABS Surveyors in the 90s that would require any glass, plexi or tube sightglass on fuel lube oil tanks be removed. Pretty sure that it IS a requirement by both the Class rules AND CFRs.


'round here we speak 'murican.

Yes that is an unfortunate fact. As long as you stay home that is fine, but when you venture out into the world of shipping it is necessary to modify your language to where you can be understood by others. That is the purpose of communication in a maritime setting after all.

I was one of the few that was very happy to see this happen, as I hated having that plastic crap in my ER!

1 Like

I once had an electrical fire while laid up on shore power with no crew aboard. It probably would not have been too bad, if it were not for the Lexan sightglass tube and open value on the hydraulic tank. The fuel daytank sightglass was shut off. But 100 gallons of hydraulic oil was feeding the fire. Of course that burned off the hydraulic suction hose dumping it all. Fortunately the engineroom was closed up tight for winter and the fire didn’t have have much air. The fire department put it out.

1 Like

Wouldn’t that be “the fire brigade”, in proper British English?

1 Like

Probably, but I’m a Yank.

This has been an educational thread. Sight-glass: eyes open now, thanks. I reckon that fire fighting is one of those things that engineers and deckies should co-oporate on. Seems like when-ever we send deckies to find a fictional fire in the ER, they wander around like dizzy cruise ship passengers.

That is not my experience. I speak fairly standard BBC English, I think. But If I speak at speed or use a normal vocab range, I am not understood. There’s a special maritime slang that mariners need to talk to each other. Its not a matter of style, like so-called “hip-hop dialect.” (honestly…) Its a matter of people who use English mostly exclusively for work not knowing all the words. For example: a pipe isn’t blocked, or restricted, or clogged, or plugged, or gummed-up, or stopped, or occluded… its “choked.” That is the word that is understood. One has to listen very carefully if one wants to be understood.

Sign language is the universally useful language in a noisy place, anyway, it turns out. Another reason to have engineers on the fire-fighting teams: they can talk each other with their hands and their lights. If you don’t have a radio in your BA, that’s a potentially useful skill.

I would have made the the categorically statement that spring loaded self closing valves/cocks are a requirement until we took over a 2 year old Damen 3212 tug -the sightglass for the thruster header tank was plastic which both myself and flag condemned. It was replaced with a magnetic float type indicator which is steel and therefore both shatterproof and fire proof.

The sight glasses for the two service tanks are glass with self-closing valves that have to be manually opened to read properly.

As I say if not class or flag then it is a fire risk issue.

1 Like

An excellent example of what happens when leadership and trained fire teams are wiped out in the first minutes of a conflagration is this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6NnfRT_OZA Trial by Fire: A Carrier Fights for Life.

It’s about the 1967 USS Forestal fire off the coast of Vietnam. I first saw it in boot camp. It’s still shown to Navy boots today.

You will notice a Chief Petty Officer run right out to the burning planes with a dry chemical extinguisher, hoping to buy escape time for the pilots. He was killed when ordnance cooked off. The Navy’s fire training center is named after him- Gerald Farrier.

1 Like