BTA Safety Seminar 2013

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This year’s Safety Seminar took place on the 7th November at Cammell Laird’s own training facility, the Mersey Maritime Group at Birkenhead. It was attended by 40 delegates from a cross section of member companies and others, including local pilots, with speakers from the MAIB, Shipowners Protection, the MCA, Svitzer and Cammell Laird. Nick Dorman of Targe Towing introduced the theme as ‘report what you see – don’t walk by’ and said that, as the thirteenth such event, there was clear evidence the industry was now safer and that the bar had been raised.

Andy Moll, Deputy Chief Inspector of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, delivered the key-note presentation, ‘electronic navigation’, clearly illustrating the problems arising from the improper use of modern aids to navigation. Appropriate training, familiarisation and adherence to the fundamental principles continue to be essential for safe navigation.  Louise Hall from the Shipowners’ Protection Limited then talked about accident statistics. The majority of claims were the result of human error and Louise questioned whilst people were often qualified, were they sufficiently experienced in particular operations; were they able to operate in an emergency and was there appropriate training and familiarisation in place? The theme of the seminar was well illustrated by the fact that many personal injuries occurred in circumstances where there had previously been a near miss, but nothing had been reported, nor any corrective action taken. Roger Towner, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s Chief Examiner, gave a round up of training and certification.  He drew attention to the new route to certification (MGN 495(M+F)) for the professional tug master. It recognises that tugs which do not operate out to sea do not need the full unlimited STCW qualification and thus aspects that are not relevant have been removed from the syllabus.  He talked about the place of the new Voluntary Towage Endorsement and, although it did not provide the depth of expertise of the STCW qualified tug master, it would help to ensure those with a Boatmaster’s Licence had adequate training. He then reminded delegates that refresher training was required for all STCW basic courses from 1 January 2017. Jason Woodward, European HSEQ Manager for Svitzer Marine, gave a presentation on safety statistics. He thanked members for the data they return annually, but gave a plea for more narrative and better information on exposure hours. The statistics collected gave a good picture of what had happened, but there was a need to look more to the leading, rather than lagging, indicators, ie near misses. With reportable incidents to the MAIB having halved over the last 10 years, there was a now need to focus on areas such as manual handling and slips, trips and falls; attitudes to training and continuous improvement needed to be more positive and poor behaviour challenged. Finally, he said that pressure to start or continue with an operation when it was plainly unsafe must be resisted. Tony Potter, the Health and Safety Director at Cammell Laird, then gave a very upbeat presentation on the challenges of maintaining a safe environment in a busy shipyard and how a positive safety culture could be developed.  

For the final part of the day, delegates broke into discussion groups covering the requirements to achieve structured training and experience, safety factors involved in making fast and letting go and the tug, ship’s master, pilot and crew pre-op discussion. The themes developed included the critical nature of properly structured and monitored induction training for each vessel type and towage evolution to complement existing qualifications and experience; the importance of a standard briefing before hand and good communication during operations, finally calling a halt or disengaging if a situation became unsafe.

The seminar remains a valuable means of raising safety standards and awareness in the industry and the BTA was very grateful to the speakers for their very informative presentations, to Cammell Laird for providing the venue and for their hospitality and to the delegates for their enthusiastic attendance.

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