The frequency and scoop of a merchant ships’ basic emergency drills routine is specified in each ship’s ISM safety management system. Generally, this routine is strictly followed. Then each ship’s safety management system will indicate how all the likely emergency scenarios might be handled – some 25 to 30 of them. Ship’s officers should be keenly aware of this aspect of their ship’s safety management – usually they are.

However I question the value of such guidelines. All too soon the routine drills become routine and lose their value as they cease to pose a challenge. And the emergency situations are of little value as so often emergencies arise as combinations of situations when the manual’s procedures are irrelevant.

Thus it is easy to write of the precautions to be taken in heavy weather or for the procedures to be followed if a man falls overboard but what should the crew do if a man falls overboard in heavy weather. Nothing?
As I follow casualties and investigations, it seems that our ships are not at all well prepared for the actual emergencies they might encounter.

Of course emergencies are unusual – so unusual that it may be that the specific equipment and training they could require would be unnecessarily expensive and so would be better ignored but when things do go wrong, the expense and the consequences can be remarkable.

Full article, ELNAVI magazine, September 2011, Page. 81

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