The pilot ladder is a specialized rope ladder employed for the boarding and disembarking of pilots and crew members during various ship operations. The steps of the ladder are made of hardwood except the lower four steps are made of rubber.

The safety of pilot ladder usage relies on a complex chain of regulations, recommendations, industry standards, and procedures. Should any of these elements fail, the entire safety system could collapse, potentially resulting in severe and fatal consequences.

Given the unique characteristics of each vessel's construction, the correct method for rigging the ladder can vary significantly for each ship.

A Matter of Safety.

The safety of all pilots and crew members hinges on maintaining proper procedures when it comes to pilot ladder steps. The goal is for everyone to return home safely. Pilots come aboard vessels to support the ship's crew during critical and potentially hazardous navigation phases. Tragically, there have been instances where pilots have lost their lives or suffered injuries due to accidents during boarding and disembarkation procedures.

To prevent such incidents, it is imperative that the ship's crew and officers undergo training on the correct installation of a compliant pilot ladder and the rigging thereof, ensuring that they meet established standards and requirements.

Convention compliance:

- SOLAS Ch v Regulation 23;

- IMO resolution A. 1045 (27);

- IMO MSC 1428;

- IMO MSC 1495;

- ISM chapter 10;

- ISO 799-1.

Certificate and Marking:

Each pilot ladder should have a certificate in accordance with SOLAS Ch V Reg 23.2.1 and ISO 799:2004 standard.

Certificate contents:

  • Name of the manufacturer;
  • certifying body;
  • SOLAS approval;
  • type pilot ladder or embarkation ladder;
  • production date;
  • onboard date (must be entered by ship staff).

Certificate and Expiry Date:

  • Pilot ladders made to ISO 799 standards must undergo a strength test every 30 months, or the certificate must clearly state the expiration date.

Identification:

  • Every pilot ladder used for pilot transfers must bear unique identification tags or markings to facilitate surveys. Tags must be affixed at the bottom of the first step and the last spreader, containing essential information.

Hull Marking:

  • Recommended hull markings consist of white over red, with a width of 0.5 meters. The top two meters should be white, while the bottom two meters should be red. The positioning of the white mark's bottom indicates its proper alignment.

Ladder Design:

  • The 9-meter freeboard step must be constructed as a single piece of hardwood without paint or varnish to prevent slipperiness. The lower four steps must be made of rubber.
  • Step dimensions should be 400mm between side ropes, 115mm in width, and 25mm in thickness, with equal spacing between 310mm to 350mm.
  • If the ladder has more than five steps, it should include a spreader of 180cm length. The maximum number of steps between spreaders is nine, with the fifth step serving as a spreader.
  • All steps must remain horizontal and have metal tags at the bottom of the first step and last spreader. The replacement of steps should not exceed two in number.

Side Ropes:

  • Two uncovered ropes, each not less than 18mm in diameter, should run continuously on each side, made of manila rope or equivalent with a breaking strength of 24 kg to kN.
  • Side ropes should not form a loop at the bottom, and man ropes on both sides of the pilot ladder must be rigged upon the request of the pilot only.
  • A 28mm to 32mm diameter retrieval line is optional but, if fixed, must be positioned above the last spreader and led forward.

Ladder Mounting:

  • Both ladders must comply with an open-bottom model and should be securely clamped. The length of side rope below the final steps should not be less than 5cm, with a diameter not less than 32mm.
  • The distance between two stanchions should be within the range of 0.7 to 0.8 meters, with stanchion height at 1.2 meters above the bulwark.
  • Stanchions and rigid handrails should be present on both sides of the ladder and platform, but if hand ropes are used, they should be taut and properly secured.

Pilot Ladder Winch Reel:

  • Pilot ladder winch reels offer an efficient means of storing and moving the ladder. These are usually installed on the ship's upper main deck or at side openings, such as side doors, gangway locations, or bunkering points.
  • Winch reels on the upper deck may result in very long pilot ladders, embarkation platforms, or trapdoors.

Minimum Climbing Height:

  • The minimum climbing height for a pilot ladder ranges from 1.5 meters to 9 meters. This range is chosen because after three steps, there may be nothing to hold onto, and falling from heights greater than nine meters poses significant risks.

Gangway Platform:

  • The horizontal platform of a gangway should be no less than five meters above water level. During combination rigging, the pilot ladder must extend 2 meters above the platform.
  • The pilot ladder must be secured to the hull at a distance of not less than 1.5 meters from the gangway platform.
  • The horizontal distance between the gangway platform and the pilot ladder should be between 0.1 to 2 meters, and the ladder should not be tied to the gangway.
  • The angle of the gangway should be less than 45 degrees.

 

Often, seafarers are trying to get on gas fleet without any understanding what awaits them and because of this, vessels receive a lot of observations during inspections, losing their potential charters and the company loses its credibility at the international market.

Did you know that with the entry into force of SIRE 2.0, special emphasis will be placed on the knowledge of junior officers of key procedures regarding cargo operations, as well as the overall safety of the vessel. Now inspectors will interview officers more thoroughly in order to understand their general level of knowledge of basic procedures. Here is the simplest question for you to test your strength, which was asked to my 3rd officer by an English inspector from Exon Mobile, as an example of upcoming questions on SIRE 2.0:

What is the procedure for preparing a vessel for cargo operations? It seems to be an easy question, but ask yourself if you can answer it off the top of your head without resorting to any sources?

Remember that during the inspection you will be one on one with the inspector and you should have a clear picture and sequence in your head of every action the vessel will undertake before arrival and immediately before the commence of cargo operations.

You can focus on company’s SMS and to learn all cargo procedures and checklists (before/after loading/discharging), you can also find useful information in the following publications: 

Liquified Gas Handling Principles (LGHP4) in chapters:

  • The Ship/Shore Interface
  • Cargo Handling Operations

Tanker Safety Guide (Liquified Gas) in chapter:

  • Cargo Operations.

The best option for me, to prepare all cargo checklists in a separate file, so you can quickly run through the main points before passing the inspection. Now let's consider the main issues for preparing a vessel for cargo operations.

Before the vessel arrives at the port, the captain is obliged to request the following information through the agent of the port of loading:

  • The name and quantity of the cargo to be loaded (if there are several grades, the necessary information must be provided for each cargo).
  • Density and temperature of incoming cargo and any other necessary information.
  • Manifold operational pressure and temperature.
  • Requirements for inhibitors (if applicable).
  • Size and type of shore connection (ANSI, DIN).
  • Which side will be alongside, to prepare reducers (if required) in advance.
  • Availability on the terminal and the need of using shore vapour return line, and if applicable maximum performance figures.
  • Maximum operational rate and any restrictions if applicable.
  • Tidal and draft limitations.
  • Method of line clearing (N2 from shore to ship/ hot gas from ship to shore, etc)
  • Any special requirements of the terminal during cargo operations. An example is cargo sampling throughout the entire cargo operation after 25٪;50٪;75%;100%;

Prior arrival of the vessel, the following vessel’s safety systems and cargo equipment to be checked:

  • Emergency shut down systems (ESD). Check testing requirements for your vessel in your company PMS, but normally at least 3 activation buttons (on the side of the Manifold of cargo transfer, CCR an one other activation point) should be tested.
  • Firefighting and Safety systems (Fire hoses, Dry powder system, Eye wash, etc).
  • Fixed gas detection system. Check that all gas detection systems and sampling points are calibrated for the proper gas.
  • Cargo Manifolds and Cargo tanks filling valves. Closing time of cargo Manifolds hydraulic valves should be less than 30 seconds (normally between 25‐30).
  • High, High High and overfill system alarms (95%;98%99%) for the each cargo tank.
  • High and low pressure alarms for the each cargo tank.
  • Cargo Tank Relief Valve Set Pressure. As example for fully refregirated vessels - Primary Set Pressure (0.275 barG), Secondary Set Pressure (0.45 barG).
  • Ballast system hydraulic valves (open/closing time).
  • Fusible plugs (visual check/simulation test depends on your type).
  • Cargo holds P/V Valves and pressure inside cargo holds (if applicable).
  • Water spray system (especially for USA ports).

It is necessary to make entries about carrying out the above checks/tests to the vessel’s logbook, as well as you should be prepared for the fact that you may be required to provide evidence of each check/test.

Before commence of cargo operations, it is necessary to check the equipment that ensures the safety of the crew:

  • Deck illumination (especially Emergency illumination in cargo area).
  • Ventilations systems for cargo machinery and accommodation.
  • Communication equipment (CCR VHF, Hot line, etc).
  • Availability of personal protective equipment and readiness of breathing apparatuses.
  • Coordination of all works that could be performed in the area of cargo operations (lifting operations, bunkering, etc).
  • SOPEP equipment should be placed in cargo manifolds area.
  • Condition of the fire/protection screens (vent masts).
  • To familise the crew with the main dangers of the cargo declared for transportation (MSDS).
  • Post Safety Data Sheets (CCR, various decks, fire plan, etc).
  • Prepare portable gas detector for every person involved in cargo operation (zero/span calibration).
  • Prepare cargo compressors and deck pipe line up for oncoming cargo operation. 

As you can see, there are quite a lot of procedures but still, there are a lot of other important points that need to be checked before port calling, but in practice, if you remember at least half of what is mentioned above, it will be more than enough for the inspector to put a tick opposite the ill-fated question in his SIRE questionnaire and proceed to the next one.

This is one of the easiest questions that you will face as an officer when passing SIRE 2.0. Similar questions for all deck officers regarding the loading or discharging process will be common practice, so do not expose the company and yourself and begin to explore the cargo systems of your vessel immediately after boarding...Good luck...

Pirate attacks have routinely made headlines. The region of the Horn of Africa is repeatedly in the news for pirate attacks.

There are few things scarier than being viciously attacked by pirates while on the open sea. While the Navy has repeatedly gone out on a limb to rescue victims of pirate attacks, the unwelcome reality is that not everybody is this lucky. They hijack a boat in order to receive ransoms from the boat owners- and they have received millions of dollars for these tactics.

PRECAUTIONARY TIPS

This begs the question, in the event of a pirate attack, what measures can you take that increase your chance of surviving? First of all, before even heading into pirate waters it is a good idea to take some precautionary measures:

- Practice onboard training and drills in the event of a pirate attack before your voyage;

- Put barbed wire around your ship and in places like the gangway opening;

- Prepare fire hose;

- Shut and lock all openings of accommodation on open deck;

- Shut and lock all openings of engine and steering room from the open deck;

- Inform international maritime security center before you enter pirate waters;

- Keep a vigilant watch on all sides of the ship;

- Know where other merchant vessels are within the vicinity.

 

In case of suspicious movement or pirates trying to board the vessel, steps to be followed:

  • Inform master & Engine Room.
  • Raise the emergency alarm signal and address on PA “Ship Under Pirate Attack”. All Crew To Proceed To Secured Ares. Sound the whistle.
  • Change over to hand steering and post extra lookouts on bridge.
  • Emergency means of communication to be located (carried to) the secured area.
  • Establish VHF contact with coast station and other ships in vicinity.
  • Request Assistance From Local Port Authority, Coast Guard & Navy.
  • If possible, speed up & carry out evasive maneuvers.
  • Direct search lights on the craft & possibly blind the craft.
  • Fix time & position of attack.

Normal practice is to avoid violence if you don’t have special navy guards on board. Only actin for self-defense. Pirates carrying weapons do not usually open fire until they are very close to the ship, e.g. within two cables. Use whatever time available, no matter how short, to activate any additional protective measures and plans. This will make it clear to the attackers that they have been seen, the ship is prepared and will resist attempts to board.

If a pirate attack is eminent:

- Inform the nearest coastal security authority that pirates are approaching your ship;

- Increase the ship speed to the maximum RPM;

- Drive aggressively to create a wave and thwart the pirates;

- Stay low in order to avoid injury from pirate guns and launchers;

- If pirates begin boarding, all the crew should gather into a safe room;

- Crew should follow any of the pirates' demands;

- Don't be aggressive in your interaction with the pirates.

 

Actions on illegal boarding.

If the ship is illegally boarded the following actions should be taken:

  • Take all way off the ship and then stop the engines.
  • All remaining crew members to proceed to the citadel or safe muster point locking all internal doors on route.
  • Ensure all crew are present in the citadel or safe muster point. This includes the Master, bridge, deck and engine team.
  • Establish communications from the citadel with Traffic Control or Coordination Center and confirm all crew are accounted for and in the citadel or safe muster point.
  • Stay in the citadel until conditions force you to leave or advised by the military.
  • If any member of the crew is captured it should be considered that the pirates have full control of the ship.

Vigilance is one of the best methods in protecting your ship against a pirate attack. Pirates tend to sneak up and attack at dawn and dusk to avoid detection. If you can steer clear of "pirate hot spots," that is recommended too.

The development of a uniform system of buoyage throughout the world was of paramount importance for safe navigation at sea.  Buoys and beacons are indispensable for guiding mariners at sea. There is a IALA Maritime Buoyage System video course with more detailed description.

If in the world was more than one buoyage system it would cause confusion and lead the accidents at sea.

With the aim of improving navigational safety to act as a barrier to dangers to shipping and to solve differences of opinions, efforts were made to establish a single set of rules by IALA – International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities, which gave them a choice of using red to port or red to starboard, on a regional basis.

There are two main IALA buoyage systems:

IALA Region A:

Lateral System: In Region A, the preferred channel is indicated by the colors of the buoys and their lights as you enter a harbor or navigate through a channel.

Red buoys mark the port (left) side of the channel when entering from seaward or heading upstream.

Green buoys mark the starboard (right) side of the channel when entering from seaward or heading upstream.

Cardinal System: In addition to the lateral system, cardinal buoys are placed to mark safe passage around dangerous areas, such as rocks or shoals. Cardinal buoys are named after the cardinal points on a compass (North, East, South, and West) and indicate where the safe water lies concerning that hazard.

IALA Region B:

Lateral System: In Region B, the preferred channel is also indicated by the colors of the buoys and their lights as you enter a harbor or navigate through a channel.

Green buoys mark the port (left) side of the channel when entering from seaward or heading upstream.

Red buoys mark the starboard (right) side of the channel when entering from seaward or heading upstream.

Cardinal System: Similar to Region A, cardinal buoys in Region B are placed to mark safe passage around dangerous areas, but they may differ in their color and characteristics from those in Region A.

Recommended that lights of the same color used for signaling the entrance to the harbour and buoying the fairway should have different rhythms to permit differentiation.

It's important for seafarers to be familiar with the IALA Buoyage System of the region they are navigating in because using the wrong system can lead to navigational errors and potential hazards.

Remember that aids to navigation can include not only buoys but also lighthouses, beacons, sound signals, and electronic navigation aids like GPS and radar. Mariners should always consult nautical charts and publications to ensure safe navigation and be aware of any local variations or updates to the buoyage system in their area.

Gyro Compass is a non-magnetic compass system used on ships. Unlike magnetic compasses, the Gyro Compass provides a more stable orientation against ship movements. This helps ships steer in the right direction and navigate safely.

Unlike magnetic compasses, the Gyro Compass does not rely on the Earth's magnetic field. Instead, it uses a high-speed rotating gyroscope. The gyroscope continues to move in a certain direction and remains stable against the movements of the ship. In this way, Gyro Compass ensures that the ship moves in the right direction. It is an essential navigation tool that helps ships navigate safely and accurately.

The Gyrocompass system applications are based upon two fundamental characteristics, which are:

Gyroscopic Inertia: The tendency of any revolving body to uphold its plane of rotation.

Precession: A property that causes the gyroscope to move, when a couple is applied. But instead of moving in the direction of the couple, it moves at right angles to the axis of the applied couple and also the spinning wheel.

These two properties and the utilization of the Earth’s two natural forces, rotation and gravity, enacts the Gyrocompass to seek true north.

Once settled on the true meridian the rotor indefinitely will remain there as long as the electrical supply of the ship remains constant and unaltered and unaffected by external forces.

Importance of these systems on the vessel:

Accurate Navigation: One of the primary purposes of a gyrocompass on the vessel is to provide an accurate and reliable reference for determining the ship's heading or course. Accurate heading information is essential for safe navigation, especially in challenging conditions, such as rough seas or when visibility is limited.

Eliminating Magnetic Variations: Traditional magnetic compasses can be affected by local magnetic variations caused by the ship's own magnetic fields, ferrous materials onboard, or magnetic anomalies in the Earth's crust. Gyrocompasses eliminate these concerns, providing a consistent and true north reference.

Automation and Integration: Modern gyrocompasses are often integrated into a ship's navigation system, allowing for seamless integration with other navigation instruments like GPS, chartplotters, and autopilot systems. This integration enhances navigation efficiency and safety.

Redundancy: In many cases, ships have multiple gyrocompasses for redundancy. If one gyrocompass fails, others can continue to provide accurate heading information, reducing the risk of navigational errors.

Usage and Errors.

Gyro compasses are pre-eminently used in most ships in order to detect true north, steer, and find positions and record courses, but due to the ship’s course, speed and latitude, there could appear some steaming errors. It has been found that on Northerly courses the Gyro compass north is slightly deflected to the West of the true meridian whereas on Southerly courses it is deflected to the East.

Modern vessels use a GPS system or other navigational aids to feed data to the Gyrocompass for correcting the error. An orthogonal triad of fibre optic design and also ring laser gyroscopes which apply the principles of optical path difference to determine the rate of rotation, instead of depending upon mechanical parts, may help eliminate the flaws and detect true north.

Gyro Compass is a device that requires maintenance and repair of ships. For this device to function properly, it must be regularly maintained and repaired when necessary. It is also important to install and set up the Gyro Compass correctly. These operations are usually carried out by qualified personnel.

International Loadline Certification.

Every ship surveyed and marked in accordance with the present Load line convention is issued an International Load Line Certificate by the authorized administration. The certificate will have a validity of not more than five years and will contain all vital information, including the assigned freeboard and freshwater allowance.

After completion of a load line survey and issuance of the certificate, no changes shall be made to the superstructure, markings, equipment or arrangements covered under the survey. If such changes need to be made, the survey’s authorized authority shall be contacted.

Ship Load Lines

Load line is a special marking positioned amidships which depicts the draft of the vessel and the maximum permitted limit in distinct types of waters to which the ship can be loaded.” When the load line is drawn over the output characteristic curve in a graph, it makes contact at a point known as the operating point/ quiescent point or Q-point.

As a result of the numerous maritime accidents that have happened at sea due to the overloading of vessels, the significance of having a standard maximum limit for ships was identified long before.

Purpose and Necessity of Load Lines.

The Load Line concept emerged  to prevent merchant ships from being overloaded. The fundamental purpose of a Load Line is to allow a maximum legal limit up to which a ship can be loaded by cargo.

A vessel should have sufficient freeboard at all times. Any exceptions will result in insufficient stability and excessive stress on the ship’s hull. This is where load-lines play an essential role, detecting whether the vessel is overloaded and its freeboard tremendously effortless.

However, since the buoyancy and immersion of the vessel largely depend on the type of water and its density, it is not practical to define a standard freeboard limit for the ship at all times. For this reason, the load line convention has put regulations that divide the world into different geographical zones, each having a separate prescribed load line.

Understanding Load Line Marks And Types.

The Load Line is a special marking positioned amidships. All vessels of 24 meters and more are required to have this Load line marking at the centre position of the length of the summer load waterline.

Standard Load Line marking – This applies to all types of vessels.

Timber Load Line Markings – This applies to vessels carrying timber cargo.

These marks shall be punched on the hull’s surface, making it visible even if the paint on the side of the ship fades out. The marks shall again be painted white or yellow on a dark background/black or on a light background. The complete Load line markings consist of 3 vital parts.

  • Deck Line is a horizontal line measuring 300mm by 25mm. It passes through the upper surface of the freeboard.
  • Load Line Disc is a 300mm diameter and 25mm thick round-shaped disc. A horizontal line intersects it. The upper edge of the horizontal line marks the ‘Summer saltwater line’, also known as the ‘Plimsol Line.
  • Load Lines – Load lines are horizontal lines are extending forward and aft from a vertical line placed at a distance of 540mm from the centre of the disc. They measure 230mm by 23mm. The upper surfaces of the load lines indicate the maximum depths to which the ships may be submerged in different seasons and circumstances.

S – Summer: - the primary freeboard line at the same level as the Plimsoll Line. Other load lines are marked based on this Summer freeboard line.

T – Tropical: - 1/48th of the summer draft marked above the Summer load line.

W – Winter: - 1/48th of the summer draft marked below the Summer load line.

WNA – Winter North Atlantic: - marked 50mm below the Winter load line. It applies to voyages in North Atlantic (above 36 degrees of latitude) during the winter months.

F – Fresh Water: - the summer freshwater load line. The distance between S and F is the Fresh Water Allowance (FWA).

TF – Tropical Fresh Water is the freshwater load line in Tropical. It is marked above the T at an amount equal to FWA.

Operational readiness.

All fire protection systems and appliances must be in good order at all times and be readily available for immediate use while the ship is in service. If a fire protection system is undergoing maintenance, testing or repair, then suitable arrangements must be made to ensure safety is not diminished through the provision of alternate fixed or portable fire protection equipment or other measures. The onboard maintenance plan should include provisions for this purpose.

Maintenance, testing and inspections for fire protection systems as well as fire-fighting systems and appliances are required in accordance with SOLAS Chapter II-2/14.2.2 as quoted below.

Maintenance, testing and inspections.

  • Maintenance, testing and inspections shall be carried out based on the guidelines developed by the Organization (Refer to MSC.1/Circ.1432 as amended, including the amendments by MSC.1/Circ.1516) and in a manner having due regard to ensuring the reliability of fire-fighting systems and appliances.
  • The maintenance plan shall be kept on board the ship and shall be available for inspection whenever required by the Administration.

All fire protection systems and appliances must be in good order and available for immediate use while the vessel is in service. If a fire protection system is under maintenance, testing, repair, or not working, then the ISM Mangers have to provide suitable arrangements to ensure fire protection capability is not diminished.

Onboard Maintenance and Competent Persons.

As per MSC.1/Circ.1432 and MSC.1/Circ.1318/Rev.1, certain maintenance procedures and inspections may be performed by competent crew members who have completed an advanced fire-fighting training course meeting the requirements of Section A-VI/3 of the STCW code, while others should be performed by persons specially trained in the maintenance of such systems. The onboard maintenance plan should indicate which parts of the recommended inspections and maintenance are to be completed by trained personnel.

A “competent person” is defined as someone who has achieved a level of technical skill (incorporating theoretical knowledge and practical experience) to be able to complete a task or activity safely and to the specified standard. The ISM Managers are responsible for assessing and selecting a suitable “competent person”. Appropriate procedures relating to this activity must be established within the Company’s Safety Management System.

Onboard maintenance and inspections are to be carried out in accordance with the vessel’s maintenance plan, which should include the minimum elements listed in sections 4 to 10 of MSC.1/Circ.1432.

An accredited service agent.

At least one portable extinguisher of each type manufactured in the same year and kept on board a ship should be test discharged at five yearly intervals (as part of a fire drill).

The ship’s operator must ensure that if the 10 yearly hydrostatic inspection has not been carried out on the date when this MSN was published, it must be carried out as soon as possible and at the latest during the ship’s next planned dry-dock.

Specific Requirements for Fire Detection Systems.

As per MSC.1/Circ.1432 sample of fire detectors and manual call points should be tested monthly, so that all devices have been tested at least once every 5 years.

Testing of manual call-points should be conducted at the same time as the detector tests.

The monthly testing schedule is be prepared such that alternative detectors are physically tested at every monthly test. Remaining detectors must still to be visually inspected and/or tested with internal electronic self-test function, where provided.

For very large systems (1,000+ detectors), at least one detector should be physically tested in each large compartment, or one detector tested within several smaller compartments in the same locality within the same fire zone (e.g., multiple sleeping rooms on the same side of the ship located on the same deck and within the same fire zone). Whilst undertaking testing, all accessible detectors should be visually inspected for evidence of tampering, obstruction, etc.

At least one detector located along each cable line of the fire detection system and within each fire zone should be tested.

Where a fire detection system operating on an atmosphere sample extraction principal is installed the entire system should be physically tested every month. Where a ship fitted with such fire detection system undertakes laden voyages of longer than 1 month, the sample extraction fire detection system covering cargo compartments should be tested before loading cargo.

In principle, the inspection interval for new built ships carried out by shipyard staff or crew starts from delivery of a vessel, while inspections for such things as replaced items or hydrostatic tests starts from either the date when such an inspection was last carried out or from the date of manufacture. In case there are related instructions by administrations, the instruction should be followed.
MSC.1/Circ.1432 and MSC.1/Circ.1516, as amended, as minimum guidelines on which such inspection are to be based. In case there are any instructions by the manufacture, those instruction are to be followed, as well.

Let's looking for some of the options for firefighting operations on the vessel that should be carried out on a weekly and monthly test. More precise requirements according to the equipment on the vessel, in general they can be on different vessels.

Weekly testing and inspections.

Fixed fire detection and alarm systems - verify all fire detection and fire alarm control panel indicators are functional by operating the lamp/indicator test switch.

Fixed gas fire-extinguishing systems - verify all fixed fire-extinguishing system control panel indicators are functional by operating the lamp/indicator test switch; and verify all control/section valves are in the correct position.

Fire doors - verify all fire door control panel indicators, if provided, are functional by operating the lamp/indicator switch.

Public address and general alarm systems - verify all public address systems and general alarm systems are functioning properly.

Breathing apparatus - examine all breathing apparatus and EEBD cylinder gauges to confirm they are in the correct pressure range.

Low-location lighting - verify low-location lighting systems are functional by switching off normal lighting in selected locations.

Water mist, water spray and sprinkler systems - verify all control panel indicators and alarms are functional, visually inspect pump unit and its fittings, and check the pump unit valve positions, if valves are not locked, as applicable.

Monthly testing and inspections.

Monthly inspections must be carried out to ensure that the indicated actions are taken for the specified equipment:

Fire mains, fire pumps, hydrants, hoses and nozzles - verify all fire hydrants, hose and nozzles are in place, properly arranged and are in serviceable condition, operate all fire pumps to confirm that they continue to supply adequate pressure and emergency fire pump fuel supply adequate, and heating system in satisfactory condition, if applicable.

Fixed gas fire-extinguishing systems - verify containers/cylinders fitted with pressure gauges are in the proper range and the installation free from leakage.

Foam fire-extinguishing systems - verify all control and section valves are in the proper open or closed position, and all pressure gauges are in the proper range.

Water mist, water spray and sprinkler systems - verify all control, pump unit and section valves are in the proper open or closed position, verify sprinkler pressure tanks or other means have correct levels of water;

Firefighter’s outfits - verify lockers providing storage for fire-fighting equipment contain their full inventory and equipment is in serviceable condition.

Hydrostatic pressure testing.

The test pressure applied for all cylinders and extinguishers should be 1.5 x maximum working pressure, which should be held for at least one minute. The test pressure should be clearly stamped on each compressed gas cylinder and clearly marked on each extinguisher.

Where cylinders are sent ashore for re-charging, the pressure test requirements for the local authority may override, but should not be less stringent, than the above requirements.

Rejection.

Extinguishers or cylinders failing any inspection or test shall be rendered unserviceable and disposed of accordingly. An entry in the records must be made to show when any extinguisher or cylinder has been rejected and for what reason.

 

Implementing MLC Onboard: A Comprehensive Guide

Implementing a Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) on ships is crucial for ensuring the welfare and rights of seafarers. The MLC, adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), sets out specific guidelines and requirements to improve the working conditions and living standards of seafarers. Here are the main ideas to implement the MLC on ships:

Compliance with MLC Standards. Ships must adhere to the MLC comprehensive set of standards, covering various aspects of seafarers' employment and living conditions. This includes areas like employment agreements, working hours, accommodation, and recreational facilities.

Documentation and Certificates. Shipowners should maintain proper documentation to demonstrate compliance with MLC requirements. This includes having valid Maritime Labour Certificates and Declarations of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLCs) issued by the flag state or recognized organizations.

Employment Contracts. Shipowners must ensure that seafarers have clear and legally binding employment contracts outlining terms and conditions of employment, including wages, working hours, leave entitlements, and repatriation arrangements.

Working and Living Conditions. Ships should provide safe, clean, and comfortable accommodations for seafarers, in compliance with the MLC's regulations. This includes proper ventilation, lighting, and sanitary facilities.

Health and Safety. Implement safety measures and procedures to protect seafarers from occupational hazards. Ships must conduct regular safety drills, provide safety equipment, and maintain a safe working environment.

Training and Certification. Ensure that seafarers receive appropriate training and possess the necessary qualifications and certifications required for their roles, as per the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention.

Welfare and Recreation. Ships should provide recreational facilities and opportunities for seafarers during their off-duty hours to promote physical and mental well-being.

Medical Care. Maintain onboard medical facilities and ensure access to medical care and assistance for seafarers in case of illness or injury.

Wages and Compensation. Pay seafarers their wages promptly and as per their employment agreements, ensuring they receive their earnings in the currency of their choice.

Inspection and Enforcement. Flag states, port states, and relevant authorities should conduct regular inspections to verify compliance with MLC requirements. Non-compliance can result in penalties or detention of the ship.

Reporting and Complaint Mechanisms. Establish mechanisms for seafarers to report grievances and concerns without fear of reprisal, and ensure these complaints are addressed promptly.

Continuous Improvement. Shipowners and operators should continuously review and improve their practices to meet or exceed MLC standards and respond to changing conditions and expectations.

Implementing the MLC on ships is essential for upholding the rights and well-being of seafarers, promoting safe and fair working conditions, and ensuring the sustainable operation of the maritime industry while complying with international labor standards. It requires collaboration between shipowners, flag states, port states, and labor organizations to achieve its objectives.

Comprehensive Guide to GMDSS Tests and Procedures

Daily, Weekly And Monthly Tests of GMDSS Equipment on board.

The development of GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress And Safety System) for the shipping industry has come a long way. The GMDSS system was established with an objective to improve distress and safety radio communications and procedures at sea.

The greatest benefit of the GMDSS equipment is that it vastly reduces the chances of ships disappearing without a trace, and enables search and rescue (SAR) operations to be launched without delay and directed to the exact site of a maritime disaster.

With the implementation of GMDSS, every deck officer with a General Operator Certificate (GOC) and the license is entitled to use the GMDSS equipment and make radio communications when needed.

For the GMDSS equipment to function properly and effectively in the event of an emergency, it is critical that officers must understand its purpose and do the required maintenance on board the vessel to keep it in a working condition and make the best use.

The daily, weekly and monthly tests of the equipment should be done by every navigating officer responsible for it without any compromise.

Vessel must be capable of performing the nine functional GMDSS requirements, here are they:

- Ship-to-shore distress alerting;

- Shore-to-ship distress alerting;

- Ship-to-ship distress alerting;

- SAR coordination;

- On-scene communications;

- Transmission and receipt of emergency locating signals;

- Transmission and receipt of MSI;

- General radio communications;

- Bridge-to-bridge communications.

This can be ensured by testing the GMDSS equipment at regular intervals. The GMDSS equipment and systems include the VHF DSC/RT, MF/HF DSC/RT, INMARSAT, SART, EPIRB, NAVTEX, and SURVIVAL CRAFT TWO WAY VHF.

Daily Tests on GMDSS Equipment.

The proper functioning of the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) facilities shall be tested at least once each day, without radiation of signals, by the use of the equipment’s Internal test facility (VHF and MF/HF). The daily test checks the internal connection, transmitting output power and the display. The process can differ from equipment to equipment based on the maker.

Weekly tests on GMDSS Equipment.

The proper functioning of the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) facilities with sending a test call to Shore station and obtaining an acknowledgement. Often happens that the deck officer does not receive any acknowledgement from the shore station. In such cases, we must take it for granted that the shore station is not sending the acknowledgement. However, this might not be the case.

The problem could be with our equipment too. To make sure that the MF/HF equipment is in order, it is better we try sending the test call using other frequencies and to other stations. Even if then we fail to receive any acknowledgement, a test call can be sent to a passing vessel if possible. Instead of keying the coast ID, key in the MMSI of the passing vessel. It is better to call the ship and confirm if they have received the test call. Also we can request them to send us a test call to ensure that the equipment receiving facility is functioning properly.

Monthly Tests on GMDSS Equipment.

EPIRB:

The Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or EPIRB should be examined by carrying out a self-test function without using the satellite system. No emergency signal is transmitted during the self-test, test the battery voltage, output power and frequency are checked. The EPIRB should also be checked for any physical damage. The expiry date of the battery unit and that of the hydrostatic release unit should be checked. Also, check that the safety clip is properly attached and in place.

A successful test will consist of a series of blinks on the LED test-indicator, followed by a continuous light and a strobe flash after approximately 15 seconds. The last green led indicates a successful test. After the successful completion of the test, the switch is released and the EPIRB is put back into the bracket.

SART:

The Search and Rescue Transponder or SART is also equipped with a self-test mechanism to test the operational function of the beacon. The SART is tested using vessel's X band radar. The test should preferably be done in open seas to avoid interference on the radar display.

Survival Craft Two Way Portable VHF Equipment:

Each survival craft two way VHF equipment should be tested at least once a month to ensure proper operation in case of a distress situation. It should be tested on a frequency other than VHF channel 16 (156.8 MHz). The expiry date of the battery needs to be checked and changed when required.

NAVTEX :

The Navtex is an equally important GMDSS equipment and is the source of maritime safety information. It is also equipped with a test function that can test the battery, keyboard, LCD, ROM and RAM. It is a good practice to test the Navtex and detect an error if any. If the test is successful the results show OK otherwise it will show NG meaning – No Good.

INMARSAT:

The INMARSAT is also equipped with a diagnostic test which checks it for proper operation. A PV test or Performance Verification test can be performed every month. This test consists of receiving a test message from an LES (Local Earth Station), transmitting a message to an LES and a distress alert test.

GMDSS Battery:

The battery connections and compartment should also be checked. The level of the electrolyte and the specific gravity of each cell should be checked and recorded. Sulfation can reduce the specific gravity thereby reducing the battery capacity. Maintenance free batteries on board, however, do not require any such checks.

Recommended every month visually check all antennas for the security of mounting and visible damage to the cables. Any deposit of dirt and salt should be removed. It is also important to check the condition of the aerials and insulators along with the help of an electrical officer. Ensure that the equipment is switched off and isolated before carrying out any work on the antenna.

GMDSS enables a ship in distress to send an alert using various radio systems. It is therefore important that all the GMDSS equipment are maintained in a state of readiness and working condition. To achieve this it is mandatory to perform the daily, weekly and monthly tests. Only then can we ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.

 

Maritime safety and security: enclosed spaces

On 14 February 2022, new regulations on enclosed spaces were made. These was came into force in May 2022 for vessels falling under the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), and in May 2023 for other vessels.

According to the new regulations, the operator of any vessel over 500t that has a confined space onboard will need to provide breathing apparatus, portable gas testing and enclosed space training for key personnel on each vessel.

Enclosed spaces are dangerous. If you see someone in an enclosed space requires for assistance: do not attempt to enter. Sound the general alarm, and take action to prepare for an organized entry.

Lets consider guidelines for defining confined spaces, dangers of trespassing, and how to reduce the risk for life.

What is an enclosed space?

Enclosed spaces are not always obvious but can be deadly. An enclosed space is a space which is not designed for continuous worker occupancy and has either or both of the following characteristics:

  • limited openings for entry and exit
  • inadequate ventilation

Here few examples of enclosed spaces:

  • cargo holds;
  • pipe tunnels;
  • ballast tanks;
  • pump rooms;
  • peak tanks;
  • void spaces;
  • bunker tanks;
  • cofferdams;
  • fresh water tanks;
  • chain lockers;
  • battery lockers;
  • bottom tanks;
  • paint / chemical lockers;
  • boiler furnaces;
  • engine crankcases.

Some spaces such as paint and chemical lockers, CO2 rooms, and battery lockers can be entered through sealed or shipboard doors – but these spaces should still be considered dangerous.

Spaces connected to an enclosed space should also be treated with caution, even when there is a closed door in-between. The connected space should be tested separately, as sometimes it can be dangerous even after the first space is emptied.

Even if a space appears to be safe, toxic gases or poorly oxygenated atmosphere can be trapped in pockets, even if the space has been ventilated and tested. Gas and liquid migration can occur through small gaps and cracks from connected unsafe spaces.

Enclosed spaces can be deadly.

Special attention is needed when dealing with cargo, as some cargo can create hazardous vapors. Even small quantities of harmful gases can kill. An enclosed space may not contain enough oxygen to breathe properly or there could be a build-up of dangerous gases which can cause asphyxiation. This could result in serious injury, brain damage and death.

Oxygen deficiency can be caused by:

  • corrosion (rusting)
  • organic matter
  • paint drying

Hazardous gases can come from many sources, such as leaks and hazardous cargo.

How to reduce risk:

Identify your enclosed spaces:

- identify the hazard of any contents of the space;

- ensure the spaces have hazardous warning signage and permit only access;

- all enclosed space access doors, hatches or manholes should be secured;

- avoid entering closed spaces if possible.

Carry out risk assessments and familiarize yourself with guidance

Familiarize yourself with the advice provided in the Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers (COSWP).

This is the simplest way to establish company procedure for entry into enclosed spaces.

In addition, you must carry out a risk assessment and issue a permit to work.

No enclosed space should be entered without proper precautions.

Before entering:

  • a competent person should undertake a risk assessment and identify any potential hazards;
  • prepare the space;
  • secure the space for entry;
  • ensure persons undertaking the work are trained and have participated in appropriate drills;
  • test the atmosphere of the space;
  • complete a permit to work (PTW);
  • make a contingency plan in case things go wrong;
  • review risk assessment.

On entry:

  • ensure you have a person assigned on standby for each entry;
  • the standby person should be equipped with rescue equipment including self-contained breathing apparatus and radio;
  • wear protective clothing and boots;
  • the standby person should ensure they maintain radio contact with the bridge or engine control room, or in port with someone who can help in case of emergency;
  • ensure the space is well ventilated - ventilation should continue during the period that the space is occupied and during temporary breaks.

If something going wrong:

  • if you see someone lying motionless do not rush to carry out a rescue by yourself - an unplanned rescue is likely to end in tragedy as personnel rush into lethal atmospheres under the misconception that they will be able to save colleagues;
  • stop, think – why are they unconscious, could this be an enclosed space?;
  • should an emergency occur, the general (or crew) alarm should be sounded so that back-up is immediately available to the rescue team;
  • never enter the space before help has arrived and a plan for rescue confirmed.

Rescue:

  • do not enter the space without the authorization of the master or a nominated responsible person;
  • do not enter the space without testing the atmosphere;
  • rescue equipment including breathing apparatus should be immediately available;
  • if the atmosphere is unsafe, do not enter unless it is an emergency - if it is an emergency, you must wear breathing apparatus;
  • emergency escape breathing devices (EEBDs) are NOT safe don't use in enclosed space entries including for rescue;
  • self-contained breathing apparatus should be used for rescue;
  • rescue procedures should be established before entry - the rescue procedure should be specific for each type of enclosed space;
  • drills on enclosed space entry must include rescue procedures - they should be practiced frequently enough to provide a level of proficiency that eliminates life-threatening rescue attempts and ensures an efficient and calm response to any emergency.

Safety of enclosed spaces on sea-going vessels is a critical concern. Proper ventilation, access points, and safety procedures are necessary to prevent accidents. Regular inspections and safety protocols are essential to ensure the well-being of crew and the overall safe operation of the vessel.