Confined Space Entry Dangers:
The Coast Guard issued a safety alert to personnel and the maritime community warning of the potential dangers of confined space entries. During two recent inspections, Coast Guard Inspectors’ gas meters alarmed, preventing a potential loss of life or serious injury.1
In the first case, an inspector was on board a tank vessel to conduct a Port State Control Examination. In anticipation of the examination, the crew opened the hatch to the Freefall Lifeboat to let it air out. As the Inspector entered the lifeboat his gas meter alarmed and he quickly exited. Upon investigation, it was confirmed with ship’s equipment that Carbon Monoxide had collected in the lifeboat. Wind conditions had been blowing exhaust from the main stack into the lifeboat. Although not a confined space by OSHA or Coast Guard standards, the risks were the same.
In the second instance, while inspecting the #1 deep ballast tank on a deep draft container ship, an experienced marine inspector was going to climb through a box-like structure formed by floors and longitudinals in the #1 bay, just aft of the collision bulkhead. The “box” had only two lightening holes. Prior to entering the first lightening hole the inspector put his 4-gas meter through. It immediately alarmed for low O2. The inspector exited the ballast tank. While the ballast tank had been ventilated and was safe, the inspector failed to recognize that the “box” formed a confined space within a confined space and had not been cleared by the shipyard competent person.
In both instances, the proper use of a gas meter likely prevented tragic consequences. The Coast Guard strongly reminds all shipboard personnel and those associated with inspections, surveys or audits of vessels worldwide, that hazardous atmospheres are frequently present onboard vessels and pose a great risk to personal safety. Besides the use of a personal gas meter for immediate protection, all organizations should have policies and procedures in place that address accessing these areas and make available the appropriate safety equipment for personnel.
Bridge Resource Management in Pilotage Waters:
The second safety alert serves as a reminder to the maritime community that navigation watch teams should at all times use Bridge Resource Management (BRM) best practices and techniques even when the ship is being directed by a properly licensed pilot.
- What is Bridge Resource Management?
BRM is the effective management and utilization of all available resources, both human and electronic, by the navigation watch team to ensure the safe navigation of the vessel. The essence of BRM is a safety culture and management approach that facilitates communication, cooperation, and coordination among the individuals involved in a ship’s navigation. BRM is required by the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.
- Recent Case Highlights BRM Failure in Pilotage Waters
A recent marine casualty investigation of a bridge allision involving a deep draft tank ship revealed the local pilot was navigating the vessel in highly reduced visibility conditions without any substantive navigation assistance or input from the vessel’s bridge watch team. The pilot and both watch officers on the vessel’s bridge had taken a BRM course within the last five years. The pilot’s course was a “BRM-P” course (i.e., a BRM course designed and approved to focus on the functions, tasks, experiences, and needs of compulsory pilots). The vessel’s operating company had policy and procedures in place requiring crews to utilize BRM yet communications between the crew and the pilot were lacking.
Effective BRM Requires Proactive Action by Owner/Operator, Master and Pilot Masters are reminded they are ultimately responsible for the bridge watch team’s conduct and safe navigation. This includes maintaining discipline in promoting teamwork and information exchange, especially when cultural or language barriers may exist between the pilot and the vessel’s crew. The presence of a properly licensed pilot does not relieve a vessel’s bridge team of its responsibilities for safe navigation.
The Coast Guard strongly recommends all vessel owners, operators, and masters ensure effective BRM is being utilized aboard their vessels, and that mechanisms exist to ensure that a cooperative, mutually-supportive working relationship is developed between the bridge team and the pilot in recognition of their respective responsibilities for safe navigation. Vessel operators are encouraged to utilize a robust audit program to frequently monitor and evaluate the extent to which BRM principles are being practiced. The Coast Guard also recommends vessel pilots employ appropriate mechanisms to facilitate effective BRM to the maximum extent possible, including a thorough Master-Pilot exchange, and effective communication and collaboration while navigating, particularly during periods of restricted visibility, maneuvering, or heavy traffic.