The UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (UK MCA) has published two guides on seafarer practices; The first guide discusses the importance of watch-keeping and the impact of over-reliance on a single electronic navigational aid. The second guide focuses on UK requirements for safe manning operations.
#1 Navigation: Use of Electronic Navigation Aids
The first guide focuses on the accidents that have occurred where the primary cause has been over-reliance on a single electronic navigational aid, highlighting that watch-keepers should be always informed on the positional information of the vessel. Other accidents concern the watch-keeper that was not fully conversant with the operation of equipment or its limitations.
Given that the prevention of these kinds of accidents is a major challenge for the industry, watch-keepers should make the correct use of the navigational equipment. In essence the watch-keepers should:
- Be aware that each item of equipment is an aid to navigation.
- Be aware of the factors which affect the accuracy of position fixing systems.
- Appreciate the need to cross check position fixing information using other methods.
- Recognise the importance of the correct use of navigational aids and knowledge of their limitations.
- Be aware of the dangers of over-reliance on the output from, and accuracy of, a single navigational aid.
Although the accuracy and efficiency of electronic aids to navigation have been crucially improved through the years, there is still the danger of over-reliance on the output from a single item of equipment may lead to an accident.
Today, the need to cross-check the position of the vessel through a variety of means is of a great importance; Yet, accidents have occurred with ships equipped with the best of equipment where watch-keepers have been over-reliant on the equipment output, and disaster could have been averted by the simple expedient of maintaining a proper lookout.
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#2 Standards of Training, Certification & Watchkeeping Convention: UK Requirements for Safe Manning and Watchkeeping
The second guide explains the safe manning requirements included in the Merchant Shipping (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) Regulations 2015 and the STCW Convention and Code and incorporates International Maritime Organization Resolution A1047(27) on the Principles of Safe Manning.
According to the regulations: All UK seagoing vessels of 500 GT or more should hold a Safe Manning Document specifying the minimum manning levels. Owners and operators of ships below 500 GT may also find it advantageous to hold a Safe Manning Document.
Moreover, the owner and the vessel operator are responsible of ensuring the overall safety of the vessel. They have to ensure that the minimum safe manning level is adequate at all times and in all respects, including meeting peak workload situations, conditions and requirements, and is in accordance with the principles, recommendations and guidelines contained in this MSN.
In the possibility that there is a change on trading areas, operations, construction, machinery, equipment or operation and maintenance of the ship, which may affect the safe manning level, prepare and submit a new proposal for the minimum safe manning level.
Also, the personnel should not work more hours than is safe.
In order for a vessel to be sufficiently manned for their safe operation according to the nature of their work, the ship operator should take the following into consideration:
- Frequency of port calls, length and nature of the voyage;
- Trading area(s), waters and type of operations in which the ship or vessel is involved and any special requirements of the trade or operation;
- Number, size (kW) and type of main propulsion units and auxiliaries;
- Size, type of ship, equipment and layout;
- Construction and technical equipment of the ship;
- Cargo to be carried or operational requirements;
- Method of maintenance;
- Extent to which training activities are conducted onboard.
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