Update Dec 2007

The Superintendent Blues, or should we say, the Superintendent Grays?

Why gray? Medically speaking, because they are on the verge of catching a cold or the flu thanks to their travel and sleeping habits. Practically speaking, because besides the “new” ship that would call once every two nights with a hair raising technical problem like sea water in the crankcase or steel shavings in the oil filter of the main engine, there was a request, put in late the night before by the chartering department, to “slip” the OBO into dry-dock “since there were 10 idle days before the next fixture”.

It is certainly no less stressful when visiting vessels. In addition to the routine inspection and the reason for attending the vessels there are a number of “extras”; What about questions regarding the spares that were not sent or the extra oiler that wasn’t approved or discussing every technical problem the chief engineer and chief officer need to solve without calling for assistance? Or what about fixing the provisions reefer plant or buying spare cold storage refrigerators in case it needs to be fixed it before the vessel sails?

To conclude, in addition to impending flu, superintendents are not exactly free from preoccupations, or of the fear of omissions that might prove critical.

Does this sound familiar?
In the last 12 years, a lot of things have changed! Vetting, TMSA, port state audits with teeth, pre-approved dry-dock plans, new building plan approvals, software system project management, fuel management, emissions!

So is there any way to improve the superintendent’s colour from gray to something healthier looking?

More time in the sun? Well that would be nice, but how do we fit it in? More wine? That fixes the colour the night before but not the following morning.

Some time consuming issues;

Primary items that contribute to superintendents being overworked:

  • Familiarisation on board with complex machinery in light of the current crew turnover
  • Keeping up with TMSA requirements such as reporting, closeout of change management issues, risk discussions etc.
  • Overcoming technical problems on board; diagnosis and solution
  • Expediting services, supplies, and repairs on board
  • Overcoming vetting issues on board
  • Controlling budgets
  • Managing Dry-docks
  • Visiting vessels
  • New vessel plan approval
  • New vessel familiarization
  • Guarantee periods on new vessel
  • Insurance claims
  • Implementing new technical requirements on vessels imposed by regulations
  • Keeping track of crew experience and credentials and approving the very difficult crew scheduling requirement

Could these time and thought consuming items be helped?

Here are some examples of assistance from a well designed system.

Familiarisation on board with complex machinery in light of the current crew turnover:
Imagine that each of your masters and engineers has a full set of manuals and plans on their computers, as does the superintendent who is now in Korea. They exchange a few notes on a noise heard in the main engine of one vessel. The system immediately shows similar noise experiences from other vessels in the past. Also shown are previous notes about considerations made regarding whether to stop the ship, what was told to the charterers, the potential conflict regarding how this could be interpreted by the charterers, past problems in communicating with local authorities, etc., and then a full account of what spares are on board for any related overhaul to the reported noise. Would a system like this free up time?

Imagine also that you find any process constraints imposed in your company SMS about critical equipment, safety measures during overhaul, etc., shown in the context of this event.

The TA makes this possible without any extra burden, other than what is already being discussed and circulated in your company today, or implemented by way of software.

Keeping up with TMSA requirements such as reporting and closeout of change management issues, risk discussions, etc.:
TMSA and the other quality regulations introduce several new layers of reporting and coordination requirements.
Imagine that a product tanker of your company is approaching a Northeastern U.S. port during winter with a fuel oil cargo that needs special care when being discharged in very low temperatures, and the officers are not all familiar with this type of situation. You need to inform the Master about the idiosyncrasy of the cargo as well as providing them with the relevant past information to warn the deck crew in due time for the best operational practices for deck heaters in cold weather, etc. Additionally, you need to inform them about the local changes in requirements with regard to reporting of the change ballast water plans before entering the port.

Imagine that the system provided the master with all suitable reminders automatically as a byproduct of internal discussions about any of the items mentioned in previous voyages of other vessels with other crews. Then imagine that there was no need for special manual entries or for a conscious effort made to provide extra instructions. Also, the system collected the discussions and presented them for your approval and records in accordance with TMSA requirements on risk assessment, change management, lessons learnt, environmental policy, etc.

Controlling budgets, expediting services supplies and repairs on board while also satisfying KPI’s:
Imagine that predicting spares requirements for next year based on planned maintenance and condition assessments only took a few minutes a year. This was simply because your on board and shore staff used your maintenance and inventory software because it always saves them time. So it is up to date and richly populated.

Moreover, to achieve this richly populated working system was no more trouble than setting up the most rudimentary PMS.

Overcoming vetting issues:
Imagine that vetting reports enter your enterprise software and are disseminated to the right people for explanation, discussion, and resolution, while the vetting department prepares responses based on a distributed effort. Imagine that as a by product of internal discussion, it was possible to assemble a report for the oil company regarding measures taken by your staff on each item. Imagine that the master on board has no need to familiarise himself with this process of responding to vetting issues. It is practically the same as any other audit or reporting process, and all the differences are taken care of by the software.

A well thought out solution to the problem, such as Task Assistant, helps portray a company in the best light without adding needless bureaucracy.

Our target is to use information to support human performance and demonstrable competence without building bureaucracy.