Update Jan 2002

Frozen fuel oil in decklines: What does software have to do with a frozen fuel oil in deck lines?

Some time ago in a shipping company, which owned a small fleet of Panamax tankers, the following situation was faced.
The ships had been purchased within the past year and were medium age high quality vessels.
Two of them had deep well pumps.
During the first winter of service in the Atlantic, two of the vessels loaded with similar cargoes made similar voyages delivering cargo to US East Coast ports. They loaded viscous fuel oil in warm climates and discharged in freezing January conditions. One vessel had an easy discharge but the other did not.
The Superintendent Engineer had been busy taking over this fleet for the past year and in doing so of course was busy getting truly familiar with maintenance condition of all the considerable machinery on the vessels and getting the vessels up to company technical standards. These vessels generally have more machinery than conventional tankers so this was more work than usual.

In being deep well pump vessels with double bottoms, they were slightly different in operation than conventional tankers whereby, for example, stripping was much easier needing less trim, whilst heating and pumping were of course much more complicated.

He did his utmost to guide the masters and chief engineers so they could collectively anticipate potential problems and certainly the issue of clearing deck lines of cargo in freezing weather was one area that had been covered extensively. However the one vessel had more recently been taken over and the Hydraulic cargo pumping system was attracting his attention while warnings regarding stripping of decklines during discharge were taking a secondary role.

The vessel that finally had the problem was simply not given the level of attention and warnings on the best procedures for discharging in freezing weather because of the attention given to the hydraulic system.

The result was that this vessel finally allowed partial discharge of its tanks into lightering barges instead of insisting on full discharge. In other words the vessel in its discharge plan allowed some tanks to be left partially filled while barge discharge was interrupted.

This is not a good idea as it requires better flushing of deck lines after interrupting cargo operations. The other vessel had taken the precaution to empty each tank fully within each lightering operation.

So what has this to do with software you may ask?

Well how much consistency can you get in warnings when you have no formal way of distributing training and familiarization information to vessels? Whereas the Superintendent Engineer had procedures and manuals they were not detailed enough to cover each vessels technical idiosyncrasies. And whereas his verbal warnings were comprehensive it was not possible to be consistent while also dealing with other more urgent matters like the hydraulic system?

In order to help users efficiently and effectively, information technology must:
· Collect and process information from people and instruments
· Present this information so that better decisions can be achieved
· Help people overcome natural human shortcomings, and improve performance.

The application that will therefore be used, should be carefully chosen and interact with people. Information Technology must be designed to be compatible with the way people naturally think and work. Achieving these parameters the IT could effectively solve problems.

The aforementioned Superintendent Engineer by using the Task Assistant, would have written his warnings regarding the idiosyncrasies of the vessels as well as the discharging procedures as unofficial reminders or copied such warnings form best practice manuals as soon as the vessel were taken over. In other words he would have provided the gap between what conventional tanker crews may not anticipate in a deep well pump vessel. Therefore, problems or difficult situations could easily be predicted and anticipated. The Masters or the other users could simply use the relevant Task having immediately the information needed even prior to arrival in the port, giving the proper emphasis for anticipating emergency situations.
However even if he had sent this earlier than commencement of these winter voyages, they may still have gone unnoticed by the current crew.

It is therefore vital, to chose an application that can reduce problems rather than add more.