The increasing load of paperwork onboard the ship

Commercial shipping gained a significant change over the years. With the increasing needs on ports and chartering, ship captains and officers faces several risk that connects to accomplishments of paperwork. Attempts to lessen paperwork by using computer format forms were adopted by other countries but not all of them.

An incident because of paperwork

A 44,788 dead weight product carrier tanker “Ficus” grounded Off the Bahamas coast. The tanker altered course to pick up a pilot off New Providence Island in Bahamas following a voyage from Curacao. The watchkeeping officer with a nine-month experience as an OOW (Officer of the Watch) was on the bridge with the OS (Ordinary Seaman). At the time of incident the OS acts as the lookout and helmsman at the same time.

The cause of accident

An inexperienced junior officer on the bridge altered course too early and lost his awareness. The master on the other hand got stuck in his cabin with the paperwork. The OOW was busy plotting the course, completing prearrival checklists, communicating with the bosun on pilot ladder preparations, and making repeated unsuccessful attempts to contact the pilot station.

“The principle that the master and crew should at all-time prioritise the safety of the vessel over routine administration”

The master got delayed in his cabin as he prepared a report on a commercial inspection of the vessel which shall be carried out in port. When he arrived on the bridge, the vessel was closer to land than expected, and any action to avoid it was too late.

The conclusion

The investigators concluded “Human Error” as the cause of incident, and recommend that bridge manning levels play a vital role on the passage plan.

An added bridge team member could help the OOW during arrival at the pilot station, and could have prevented grounding the vessel. The safety of the vessel is top priority. One of the big disadvantages of ISM is paperwork. In the digital era like us, paper reduction program should be an alternative. With fewer crew and more papers, it’s becoming an issue of stress and safety for ship officers.

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