The IMO will soon be considering a submission from the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) on the implementation of controlled language during operation and in maintenance manuals supplied to the vessels.

Chief engineer Paul Doherty co-wrote the submission with the chairman of IMarEST, which looks at the necessity for Simplified Technical English (STE) for non-native speakers in those industries where English is the most common language. “People with a limited knowledge of English are easily confused by the complex sentence structures and by the several meanings and synonyms that English words can have," notes the submission. "Controlled grammatical structures and vocabulary, on which STE is based, have the purpose of producing texts that are easily understandable and, consequently, STE can reduce human errors during the maintenance tasks.”

The paper also looks at a July 2006 report published by the UK’s Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP) on marine operating and maintenance manuals, which found that between 1990 and 2006, of those 45 incidents involving manuals, written procedures and/or instructions, 22 manuals were either not supplied or hard to understand, 22 operating instructions were inadequate and one case involved the bad maintenance of equipment, with 20 of these 45 incidents resulting in harm.

The submission then looks at the aviation industry’s adoption of STE in 1989 as a mandatory requirement, and notes a Shubert-The Boeing Company collaboration that studied the effects of STE. The report states, “Their study found that STE supported information location and reduced comprehension errors in procedures based on maintenance tasks … The most significant error reduction [was] with complex procedures and non-native English speaking participants.”

"The superyacht industry is particularly susceptible to the consequences of the knowledge gap simply because of the relatively small number of experienced engineers on board."

“There are a number of contributing factors towards a seafarer’s reliance upon procedures in operating and maintenance manuals: failure of training and certification to keep pace with the rate of change of technology; rapid movement of Officers through ranks; reduced staffing levels; and the large breadth of technologies that seafarers – particularly engineers – are now expected to be fairly expert in,” Doherty tells The Crew Report. “Such factors contribute towards a knowledge gap [and] the absence of a solution to such factors will ensure that procedures remain critical to safety throughout seafarers’ careers.

“The superyacht industry is particularly susceptible to the consequences of the knowledge gap simply because of the relatively small number of experienced engineers on board and, of course, quite often yachts sail with sole engineers where the only resource is operating and maintenance documentation. Poorly constructed manuals are as dangerous as providing faulty tools and a growing number of maritime incidents are testimony to this.”

The aviation industry has proved that STE has played a role in reducing human error, particularly with non-English native speakers, and this is why the submission has been made to the IMO for consideration within the maritime industry.

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