Category Archives: Papers

Should we hold the handrail? Risk and Safety in COVID times

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  “The greatest enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”  – J.F. Kennedy “OK, stay safe, look after yourself and as you go down, be careful, don’t touch the handrails.” Those were the words of a ship manager whom I visited in my hometown […]

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Conflicts within and without: The Costa Concordia case

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“Have a look to see what speed we need to get out of here and approach Giglio. We’ve got to sail past this fucking Giglio right, let’s chart the route then”.   “Is half a mile OK Captain?” There’ [enough] depth of water [there].”[1] This was an exchange of words between Captain Francesco Schettino and the second mate onboard the […]

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What failure has taught me?

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Let’s go back some 18 years in time. The local time was 03.10. I was standing my watch as a Second Officer on a large container vessel, bound for Irago Pilot Station in Japan in the next 90 minutes. On a container ship bound for a Japanese port, the concept of ‘estimated time of arrival’ actually means accurate time of […]

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Adaptation at sea: Hindsight and Foresight

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It’s 4PM and a container ship is getting ready to depart from port. The crew has had a long day going through an intensive safety audit with a company superintendent onboard. Now the mate is dealing with last minute cargo manifests. Cargo lashing is still not completed by the shore gangs. The engineers are waiting to test the main engines […]

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Turning Apples into Bananas: How big data undermines safety and what can be done about it?

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An able seaman has been ‘reprimanded’ for leaving the gangway hanging out while the vessel was shifting berth. Root cause – ‘lack of awareness’; corrective action – ‘risk assessment’. A third officer has been served a warning letter for missing out on monthly checks on a fire extinguisher resulting in non-conformance during a safety audit. Root cause – ‘complacency’; corrective […]

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Near miss reporting: A (mis)leading indicator of safety?

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The captain is fuming. “You know someone left a paper in the photocopier and the next thing it is reported as a near miss. Can you believe this?” he annoyingly asks. “We must report 5 near misses on monthly basis”, he adds. Reporting near misses will improve safety is an unquestioned belief in many companies. But why? The idea of […]

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Personal protective equipment: Managing safety or exercising control?

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Sir’, he said in a pale voice. ‘It was 59 degrees in the engine room that afternoon and I took my helmet off. Not for too long, sir, just a few minutes. I was standing under the blower to cool my head. And then this safety of­ficer comes to me and starts shouting. “Why are you not wearing your helmet? […]

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Thirty years on: In search of broken components

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Introducing barriers has become a standard response to managing safety risks but it is not necessarily the most appropriate one. 

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Imaginary checklists and defensive procedures: When safety tools serve another purpose

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Questions about procedures, checklists, their adequacy and effectiveness are frustrating to many of us across industries. The popular belief – An accident happened because procedures were not followed. But could it also be that the procedures could not be followed? This is  a theme that we explore in this article. Click here to read more. 

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Bad seamanship: Is that so?

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Weighing options Dismissing the actions of crew involved in an incident as ‘poor seamanship’ ignores the myriad commercial and regulatory pressures that they operate under  Words: Nippin Anand Picture the scene: The Hoegh Osaka has just departed from the port of Southampton, at which point the master calls up the mate and says that the ship did “not feel right”, […]

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