In order to enhance maritime safety worldwide, the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP) exists to act as a complement to other formal reporting systems operated by UK organisations. CHIRP provides a means by which individuals are able to raise issues of concern without being identified to their peer group, management, or the regulatory authority. One such report was received in response to a CHIRP request for feedback on the current quality of technical and operating manuals provided by manufacturers to be supplied on vessels.



“I would like to share my recent experience on this subject,” writes the reporter. “I am a second engineer officer with 38 years’ experience serving on board a two year old freight ferry sailing under XX classification. The following criticisms are by no means limited to the vessel’s main propulsion manufacturer. Virtually every technical manual on board is sub-standard in one or more ways as described below.”  The engineer goes on to list the following inadequacies he perceived with the current quality of technical and operating manuals on board:

1.    Manuals poorly translated from their original language. The information frequently being so brief that understanding is difficult, ambiguous or impossible;
2.    Generic instructions that often do not relate specifically to the equipment fitted;
3.     Maintenance schedules that make reference to tasks that are not applicable to the machinery fitted. For example “change the oil in the flexible coupling” when what the manual is actually referring to is the de-tuner which is lubricated from the main oil supply and therefore does not have any oil to change. (It is also likely that by the same token maintenance of some equipment that is fitted has been omitted);
4.    Emergency procedures, which are belatedly found not to apply to the machinery fitted and no emergency procedures for the machinery which is fitted forcing the operator to make it up as he goes along;
5.    Poor quality drawings and descriptions that lack detail or are generic in nature and not specific to the machinery fitted in the ship leaving one unsure if the job has been done correctly;
6.    Operating parameters omitted, for example maximum exhaust temperatures.
7.    Instructions that refer to tightening nuts or bolts but do not state the torque.


"There seems to be a deliberate attempt by manufacturers to limit the amount of information supplied with equipment so that the operator is forced to call a service agent - a trend that should be nipped in the bud."



“In fact the only area in which the manuals are thorough is in the excessive effort put into stating safety measures and disclaiming responsibility for accident or injury,” the engineer concludes. “I lay the blame for this lack of quality information entirely at the feet of the classification societies who issue type approval for machinery without bothering to examine the manuals for the quality of their content, in many cases they do not appear to have tested the equipment either. There seems to be a deliberate attempt by manufacturers to limit the amount of information supplied with equipment so that the operator is forced to call a service agent - a trend that should be nipped in the bud with the manufacturers being reminded that a ship at sea should have all the information necessary to enable it to solve its own problems.”

The concerns raised over poorly written, inaccurate or incorrect instructions in manufacturer’s operations and maintenance manuals is a major issue in the commercial shipping industry and TheCrewReport.com would be interested to hear whether engineers feel that this is an issue in the superyacht industry also. To comment, please join our debate here.