As captains, chief officers and officers of the watch (OOW), we are all trained to various degrees in navigation and how to get from A to B. There are also many courses we need to take as we move up the deck officer ladder. To name three of the most relevant courses, we have Navigation and Radar, Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) and Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) offered by the training establishments – three of the essentials for OOW, chief mate and captains. But is this enough? In general, these are generic courses. How relevant is this training for individual vessels? How many of the smaller yachts in particular are out there with just a Yachtmaster Offshore as captain and what experience has he and his presumably less qualified crew really got?
I would argue that with busy schedules and changing circumstances, in some cases, preparation of a planned trip is poor, adequate watches are not always kept, proper procedures are not maintained and more to the point the use of the equipment available is not properly understood. What, then, brings me to these conclusions?
Navigation within the Mediterranean is in general very easy; no tides to worry about, not too may hazards around many of the coasts and often very good weather during our cruising season. But does this then breed complacency, especially when we are tired, overworked and operating with insufficiently numbered and skilled crew? I have also arrived at this conclusion from experience. I did my ECDIS generic course using a Transas 3000 system which was great. However, I have an Electronic Chart System (ECS) on board and we have the Transas 4000 – not the same at all. So how do those with a completely different ECS manage? Do they really spend the time reading the books and passing on their knowledge to their crew, or do they learn by trial and error and is this done while underway?
I would argue that with busy schedules and changing circumstances, in some cases, preparation of a planned trip is poor, adequate watches are not always kept, proper procedures are not maintained and more to the point the use of the equipment available is not properly understood.
Hopefully the larger vessels, particularly those over 500gt that are ISM compliant, are maintaining adequate manning requirements for bridge watch-keepers. They generally have the resources, numbers of crew available and often well-qualified and experienced officers in charge of the watches. But do all new officers get the full shakedown of the new vessels’ most advanced bridge equipment? It will most likely be different from what they have been used to on their previous vessel.
When it comes to the slightly smaller vessels (up to and including 45m in some instances), they are running with small crew numbers and in many cases crew with the minimum requirements. The minimum requirement could be a Yachtmaster Offshore ticket, which newcomers can get with little real experience – something that I personally find very uncomfortable, but that’s another issue.
Find the full article in issue 68 of The Crew Report – click here to download.