Familiarization for Safety's Sake
Am I completely confident in myself and in each of my fellow shipmates to respond to an emergency on board this vessel? This question is often thought of by each crew member joining a vessel for the first time, yet it could be left unanswered if a thorough familiarization is not conducted.
At home, we know to call the fire department, hospital or police for emergency services. At sea however, there is no one to call upon except for the crew. That's why it is so important for each crew member to become familiar with his or her vessel within 24 hours of reporting on board.
STCW 95 (Standards of Certification, Training and Watchkeeping) requires that no person can perform shipboard duties without having received basic safety training in personal survival techniques, fire prevention and fire fighting, elementary first aid, and personal safety and social responsibilities. Such training is required prior to being able to go to sea and refresher training, including drills, is performed on board to ensure continued competency.
Element 6.3 of the ISM Code states, "The Company should establish procedures related to safety and protection of the environment to ensure that new and transferred personnel are given proper familiarization with their duties. Instructions that are essential to be provided prior to sailing should be identified, documented and given."
At OSG, the familiarization process prior to joining a vessel varies slightly by fleet, but once on board, every new hire is oriented by the master to the fire control plan, the location of life-saving devices and safety equipment, authorized access and evacuation points and many other safety, security, environmental and ship-specific matters. In addition to becoming familiar with the vessel's emergency equipment, crew members are also required to become familiar with and follow the procedures in the Management System.
When reporting aboard, the Master or a designated officer must ensure that each crew member receives a thorough safety orientation to become familiar with the location and operation of firefighting and lifesaving equipment, including their duties as defined in the muster list. If the familiarization process is effective, any entry level rating should be able to show a new crew member around the ship and explain how all firefighting and lifesaving equipment works. If they are able to do this without hesitation, you know you are on a safe ship. If not, it should be a signal that the familiarization process on board needs to be improved.
Officers have additional responsibilities and are required to be fully familiar with the characteristics of their vessel, including, but not limited to the general arrangement of the vessel; maneuvering characteristics; proper operation of the installed navigation equipment; firefighting and lifesaving equipment; stability and loading characteristics; emergency duties; and main propulsion and auxiliary machinery, including steering gear systems and controls.
A well trained and familiarized crew is a fundamental part of operating a safe ship and each crew member has a personal responsibility to know their ship. Remember—your fellow shipmates are counting on you for their safety!
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