STRATEGIES FOR STRESS-FREE INSPECTIONS

Port State, Flag, Class and Oil Majors – Strategies for stress-free inspection 

Inspections such as by Port State, Flag, Class and Oil Majors are now a fact of shipping. There is no doubt that these inspections have helped improve safety standards in shipping; the number of sub-standard ships has reduced and it is now difficult for rogue operators to endanger life at sea or damage the environment.

Every action has its side effects; inspections are carried out on all ships and are stressful times for a ship. Such inspections can determine the commercial success of a ship, the results are one of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of the ship and of the Company and the ultimate aim is to clear each and every inspection with a clean record. Detentions or deficiencies, on the other hand, can lead to loss of time, reputation and ultimately earnings.Slide1

Having been part of several inspections, both on the ship, and as part of the office support team, I am of the opinion that such inspections are all about preparation and presentation. With a few key strategies, it is indeed possible to be prepared for an inspection any day, achieve success every time, and still be stress free and have a smile on your face. I share some of these strategies below:  

ADOPT POSITIVE MIND-SETS:

  • Aim for NIL deficiency. Nothing else will do!
  • It is all about professional preparation and presentation.
  • Along with your team, YOU have to deliver the results!
  • Keep your ship ready for inspection at any time, in port or at sea, and then it’s always easy.Photo source: Wikipedia commons If you don’t get this right, it is very difficult to catch up later.

SOLID PREPARATION WILL GIVE SOLID RESULTS “Fortune favours the prepared mind”

  • STEP 1: DOCUMENTATION
  • Ensure you have the necessary checklists for the inspection you are going to have. Ask for support from the office, especially for Concentrated Inspection Checklists and to enquire if the inspectors in that particular port pay close attention to some particular items. For example, the AMSA website is a great resource and it amazes me the number of times the deficiencies are repeated on different ships!
  • Go through the complete history of the ship. Ensure that any past findings are not repeated- this is a big red flag!
  • Ensure all the statutory and crew certificates are up-to-date.

Check the second level of documentation such as oil-record-book, garbage logs, rest-hour records, grain-calculations, maintenance records, engine technical files, winch test reports, and emergency contact lists. For tankers, additionally check the ready availability of the manuals such as for COW, IG, PV valves and for operations. Passage plans deserve special mention as navigational deficiencies are rated at much higher risk than others; ensure the charts are updated and the plans take into account the squat of the ship. Don’t falsify records; just ensure the documentation is in order.

  • Keep copies such as crew lists, vessel particulars and certificate status ready to give to the inspector. It is best to minimize the time the inspector is on the ship, and so don’t keep him waiting!
  • See these links for good checklists:
  • Before the inspection, imagine you are the inspector, and carry out an inspection yourself with the help of the checklists. If you have a doubt how the item should be presented, check the Manual. Some common detainable deficiencies during port state inspections are:

Safety Items

  • Engine Room dampers and Funnel Fire Flaps in-operational or poorly maintained. Check not just the operating handles, but also the condition of the actual flaps and their sealing.
  • Lifeboat Engine in-operational. Tip: Start the LB engine before arrival port & ensure it is warmed up.
  • Lifeboat on-load release in-operational. In most cases, the on-load systems are not properly reset, creating a risk of the boat falling off during a drill.
  • Emergency Fire pump leaking (For peace of mind, check the pump once before arrival port).
  • GMDSS unable to transmit MF/HF (test) on battery.
  • Emergency Generator not able to come on load automatically. Also check the primary & secondary means of starting as well as the fuel levels in the tank.
  • Emergency lights fused or swivelled base frozen.
  • Fire Detection System; certain zones isolated.
  • Smoke detection System; indicators in-operational (Tip: check for choked lines).
  • Leaking fire hoses (especially those in Engine Room where the inner layer is prone to heat damage)
  • Fixed CO2 system bottles with transportation pins installed, or broken attached pipes.
  • Improper fire extinguisher straps.
  • Leaking fire line (check the frequent areas for failure such as near bends, underside of pipes and near U-clamps)
  • Damaged embarkation ladder steps and corroded securing points.
  • Operating air for quick-closing-valves not full. With quick-closing-valves, I would also recommend to check the actual operation of the valves, especially for bunker tanks which often tend to be sluggish at the bottom floor.
  • EEBDs empty (Tip: Check Engine Room EEBDs especially those near boiler more often)
  • Fire Doors not closing properly or secured in open position. (Tip: This is a common failure on Engine Room entrance doors closest to the cylinder head platform) MARPOL items
  • OWS / OCM in-operational (OCM cuts in frequently, overboard discharge pipe oily)
  • (Tip: Inspect the OWS and overboard discharge pipe internals that they are not overly oily. Follow a good engine room waste minimization, segregation and management plan)
  • Sewage treatment plant not maintained properly (inadequate aeration, wasted equipment body, blocked sludge return line)
  • Garbage not segregated properly.
  • Technical files not maintained. Load-line Items
  • Engine Room hatch securing and quick release arrangement ineffective. (Tip: Preferably keep ER skylight closed before entry into port).
  • Hatch cover cleats frozen (take care of those centre-cleats!).
  • Hold ventilation flaps unable to close properly.
  • Accommodation portholes (deadlights) not able to be closed properly.
  • Air-vent heads cracked.
  • Cable penetrations wasted. (Tip: Check the numerous cable penetrations for lights or reefer sockets. Additionally rust weeping on the underside can identify sources of leaks).
  • ‘Postage stamp’ doublers on accommodation bulkheads.
  • Windlass foundation thinned down. ENGINE ROOM EQUIPMENT
  • In-operational (and unreported) critical machinery.
  • Various leaks on Main Engine and Auxiliary Engines.
  • High-pressure pipes double-sheathing not available
  • Lagging missing from hot surfaces and inadequate anti-spray protection.
  • Earth fault on ER panel
  • Various Engine-Room alarms in-operational.
  • Self-closing tank gauge valves secured in open position.
  • Leaks on main sea-water pumps (a corroded foundation is a great pointer)
  • Corroded sea tubes of overboard valves or soft patches on sea-water lines.
  • Unable to carry out steering gear test on emergency power. Steering gear leaks.NAVIGATIONAL EQUIPMENT
  • Bubble in magnetic compass
  • AIS ship/ voyage setting incorrect
  • No speed log input to ARPA
  • Charts and publications not available or updated.
  • ECDIS training records not available.
  • ECDIS not approved and updated.HOUSEKEEPING, CLEANLINESS AND GENERAL IMPRESSION
  • Spare steel and Engine Room spares not secured properly (Tip: Must be secured with robust steel restraints).
  • Engine Room bilges, purifier room bilges and general appearance oily and dirty.
  • Duct Keel oily
  • General lighting in poor condition. (Bad lighting can show even the best of Engine Rooms in a poor light).
  • Accommodation- crew cabins with overloaded electrical sockets, commodes not flushing, hot water not available in wash basin, air-condition in-operational.
  • Accommodation- reefer-rooms temperature not maintained properly, food insufficient for voyage.
  • Galley- chimney filter and vent with grease.

STEP 3: GET YOUR TEAM INVOLVED 

  • Get everyone on board involved and excited about the inspection. Create the pride in presenting a great ship at all times.
  • Assign responsibilities and establish guidelines for supervision.
  • Expect the best from yourself and from everyone. Nothing else will do.
  • Assign responsibilities, and have everyone report in their progress.
  • Share information about the checklists and inspection trends.
  • Conduct meetings to ensure everyone is aware of what is going on, and if interdepartmental cooperation is required.
  • Assign responsibilities, especially for last-minute checks to avoid embarrassment in front of the inspector. These could include items such as checking accesses, fire door closure, tidiness of specific areas, securing the garbage drums, plugging scuppers and ensuring the walkie-talkies are charged. Clarify who will do what during the inspection.

STEP 4: DO NOT SEND OUT PSC INVITATIONS!

  • Many times PSC inspections are precipitated due to an event on the ship, mainly:
  • Engine starting failure (To avoid: Ensure Emergency manoeuvring is tried out at least 3 monthly or upon every change of C/E and/or 2/E, air-receivers and fuel tanks are drained properly, comply with pre-arrival or departure checks thoroughly and well in advance of the manoeuvre)
  • Steering problem: (To avoid: Check hard-over to hard-over timings prior every arrival and departure port, visual inspection of steering gear is carried out regularly).
  • Stevedore complaints (To avoid: Comply with stevedore safety checklist)
  • Pollution claims (In Port: Keep OWS overboard valve locked, scuppers shut and check water around the ship regularly).
  • Non-compliance with Bridge visibility on container ships.
  • Pilot Ladder defective (To avoid: Ensure ladder is maintained and rigged properly). If you have prepared well, you CAN tackle the inspection confidently! You have prepared well but the final presentation counts! It is like putting on your best for a guest! Our work is the presentation of our capabilities” (Edward Gibbon). If you have prepared well, show off your ship with pride and professionalism. Ultimately, it boils down to the perception of the ship YOU want the inspector to get. If you do not manage the perception, he may get the perception HE wants, and that may not always be to your favour

PRESENTATION

Our work is the presentation of our capabilities” (Edward Gibbon). If you have prepared well, show off your ship with pride and professionalism. Ultimately, it boils down to the perception of the ship YOU want the inspector to get. If you do not manage the perception, he may get the perception HE wants, and that may not always be to your favour.

STEP 5: START OFF WITH A GOOD IMPRESSION

Well begun is half- done

  • Properly rigged and lit gangway with net.
  • Proper ISPS procedure followed at gangway. The watch-keeper must make entry on the gangway log after checking the photo ID.
  • Inspector escorted by a crew member (not the gangway watch-keeper!) to Master’s office.
  • Master personally receives inspector.
  • Way leading from gangway to Master’s office is kept tidy.
  • Master’s office- All certificate files, operational and maintenance records are readily available.
  • All ship’s personnel are neatly dressed with appropriate personal-protective-equipment.
  • Ensure adequate personnel are allotted to carry out the ship’s operations. Follow the correct procedures for operations which are going on, such as cargo, bunker, mooring and maintenance as you would on a normal day.

STEP 6: INTERACT POSITIVELY WITH THE INSPECTOR

  •  Be courteous to the inspector as you would be to any guest. Offer refreshments.
  • Be pro-active. Provide for his requests promptly. Remember, the less time he is on board, the better!
  • If you have completed a checklist before his arrival, show it to him. This is especially true for vetting inspections, charterer’s inspections, audits and concentrated PSC inspections.
  • The inspector must be ideally accompanied by the Master; in case there are more than one inspector checking at different locations, the next senior Officer (C/E) must accompany the inspector and so on in that order. This helps any queries of the inspector to be responded to immediately.
  • Inform your shore-office immediately so your shore team is on standby for any advice or support that may be required.
  • Rectify any observations pointed out by the inspector promptly. In case you disagree with the observation, express yourself immediately. Inspectors after all like confident, assertive and professional crew. In case of any doubt, consult with the Office.
  • Assist to expedite the inspection. I always recommend Masters to walk ahead of the inspector and take him through the usual inspection route. It’s your house, it’s your ship!
  • Show a good knowledge of the ship and the safety-system but don’t overdo it. Don’t un-necessarily offer more information than asked.
  • Some PSC inspectors may ask for drills to be conducted; carry them out immediately and seriously simulating an actual emergency. If cargo watch is in progress, watch-keepers will have to be discounted during the head count but ensure the substitute knows his duty well.
  • Common failures during drills with PSC:
  • Not sounding the General Alarm properly.
  • Not bringing the Immersion suit to the muster station.
  • Too much time for head-count. (Tip: always carry out initial head count by number and not by names or ranks)
  • Not closing the vents or doors; duties for closing vents not clearly defined.
  • Inadequate use of walkie-talkies.  

STEP 7: AFTER THE INSPECTION:

  • Ask the inspector if there are any observations and if you can discuss them.
  • There is no need to beg but professionally state your point if you disagree. If possible, show him that you can have it rectified before he leaves the ship.
  • Inform your Office about the outcome.
  • If there are deficiencies or findings, start rectifying them immediately and follow up with proper reporting. You have learnt something new today which you will ensure is not repeated at the next inspection!

 I got great results with these strategies. It can be done, and you can do it too!

By Capt. V.S.Parani, MNI, MICS, LLM, MBA. The Author has over 8 years of experience in carrying out DPA duties, and in investigating numerous incidents for a large fleet. The views are his own and do not necessarily represent his employer.

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