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Update Oct 2006

How often do you need meetings mentoring and discussion to avoid everyday shipping risk?

A Panamax Bulk Carrier was ordered to load a full cargo of pet coke in a terminal on the Western Coast of Canada. The discharging port was in North Europe and the vessel had to pass through the Panama Canal with a restriction of draft.

Since it was New Year's Day, the stevedores were working overtime in order to complete loading the vessel, which was on a time charter. Under these circumstances, the charterers were pressing for the fastest possible completion of the vessel loading process.

The terminal's loading rate was 3,500-4,500 MT/hr and the estimated time of completion for the loading operation was 18-20 hours, including stoppages.

The terminal assured the vessel that the shore scales were very accurate and pressured the chief officer to avoid loading stoppages to check drafts. The chief officer did his best to maintain the proper process of checking the drafts, but his efforts were not enough. In reality, he needed to stop the loading more often than usual, despite the shore staff's recommendations.

The shore scales did not accurately measure the cargo that was being transferred on the long conveyors from the main terminal. While the measurement discrepancies did not pose a problem in the initial loading stages, when loading was completed, the errors were irreversible. The vessel had been overloaded and left port with an excessive draft and significant trim by stern.

Arriving in Panama a few days later, the excess cargo had to be discharged in lightering barges so that the vessel could pass through the Canal safely and within the draft limits. After transiting the Canal, the cargo had to be reloaded for delivery in the North European port 15 days later. During this lightering, reloading, and barging operation, the vessel was off-hire.

The cost of the operation in Panama was high and the charterers rightfully claimed all their costs and hire from the owners.

How do we avoid this from happening again?

"We aim to continuously increase the capability of our people through knowledge management. We have access to huge amounts of information and data from our ships and offices. The challenge is to manage and apply that data to enhance our competitiveness. We aim to create a platform to capture data, disseminate it and add value" Eurasia Ship Management, Hong Kong

Today, fast-loading is a potential hazard faced in many of the world's terminals when loading bulk carriers. However, different experiences at other terminals may not impose the same specific risks and may lead to complacency among vessels' officers.

Moreover, most companies do not have an established method for communicating items like terminal experience to all interested stakeholders " from the chartering and operations departments to the vessels'' master and officers.

SMS Procedures are not specific enough to draw attention to hazards caused by the combination of terminal induced hurried completions and inaccurate cargo scales. The reason for this informational gap is simple. There are many other cargo loading risks to write about, many of which are not relevant.

It is also important to keep in mind that a chief officer will not read the SMS manual before performing every task unless the SMS manual is filtered by tasks like ''loading process'', and then by additional relevant filters like ''ports'' and ''cargo''.

Above all, there are so many concurrent risks at each stage of operation for a shipping fleet that even frequent meetings with the most experienced personnel there to guide newer employees, is not sufficient to ensure that reminders are given for all proximate risks.

"It is commonly accepted within shipping circles that up to 80% of accidents are caused by human error. BP Shipping expects to see a reduction in this risk area as Task Assistant supports operations staff with easily accessible, up to date procedures related to the specific task in hand" BP Shipping, London

How can the Task Assistant can help?
"With the implementation of Task Assistant, Eurasia has been able to add value and enhance communication throughout its operations. Urgently needed information is immediately located and every transaction contributes to the corporate memory. Through effective information handling Task Assistant provides a tool to find the simplest solution to the most common causes of ship management problems. Users find what they need quickly and efficiently and contribute to shared information without effort or software training. Task Assistant discards traditional design principles which force the user to search for information and achieves tremendous productivity advantages through its task-based user interface"
Eurasia Ship Management, Hong Kong.

The Task Assistant contains a model of all the tasks in a maritime organisation. Task Assistant systematically separates all company processes and utilises the model to index all relevant information including SMS instructions, memos, circulars, forms and reports and relates them to the processes they affect.

Since all the informational input is generated within the company, the information is automatically channelled to the appropriate personnel who require that information to accurately complete their tasks. For example, a loading situation such as the one described above can happen to one ship in a fleet. However, the chief officer's account of his experience will be readily available to another chief officer on another vessel who is about to commence loading at the same terminal three years later.

In what circumstances is the Task Assistant useful?
"Task Assistant was chosen after detailed research by Northern Marine on the products available in the market, with no other product found to so easily meet the needs of the Company allowing vessels entering the Company's management to be readily assimilated into the existing management system, thereby ensuring both legislative compliance, the highest standards of management are expeditiously achieved and confirming Stena's commitment to combining safe operations with the protection of the environment"
. Northern Marine, Glasgow

  •  When a user is about to incur a risk for which warnings and experience already exist in the company, but the current user, due to turnover or other coordination problems, is not prompted to even search for such a warning.
  • When discussion items need to be disseminated and indexed for future use, but there is no workable way to organize the information to ensure that it will be readily available when the occasion arises.
  • When a series of tasks require completion under time-pressured multi-tasking conditions where there is no time to execute searches for the relevant documents for each job. A prime example where these conditions are present is a port departure.
  •  When the consequences of critical information loss are onerous, for example when operating machinery without the benefit of prior knowledge as to any potential problem areas.
  • When the consequences of time lost in retrieving and channelling information have significantly adverse effects on process efficiency. For example, delays when responding to the many communications which we receive each day, especially for those who work ashore.
  •  When there are easily identifiable consequences stemming from the wasteful preoccupation of users with searches and filing. For example, in the decision-making process.
  •  When peoples'job descriptions or locations are changing and there is a need to reroute information.
  • Above all, the Task Assistant can help store and deliver company experience without slowing down the organisation through inefficient and incessant meetings.

"Task Assistant has the unique ability to absorb new information and ensure effective distribution of that information to those that need it, when they need it" NYK Shipmanagement, Singapore