The Way Ahead: Understanding Each Other

In order to understand the demands and requirements made by both departments (that is, the engine room and the bridge), it is essential to establish common knowl­edge and an understanding of each other’s working procedures. It is vital that the checklists that are to be used in abnormal conditions are discussed by representa­tives from both departments, for example, the routines to be followed if the main engine fails to manoeuvre. The engine department is to be informed whenever the situation demands a manned engine control room—for instance, in narrow water­ways or when approaching or leaving harbour. It is also necessary to increase the awareness of the situation for the engine room crew. They can benefit greatly from knowing what is happening on the bridge and perhaps even being able to track the ship’s position. A cheap and effective solution to increase such awareness may be the addition of an outside, forward-looking camera to the closed-circuit television (CCTV) system, accessible also from the engine control room. Of course, the engine room crew must be trained to perform the correct actions in different situations and the bridge must be aware of the approximate time needed to perform these cor­rect actions. If the acquired approximate time is known, the planning of the right action—for instance, to drop the anchor—can be facilitated and accidents can be avoided. This puts demands on the design of the equipment in the engine room. All emergency running of any equipment must have easy access. As such, it is subopti­mal to hide important functions behind endless menus in a complicated computer – based structure.

During the operation of ships, especially tankers, certain operations are vital for the safety of the crew and the ship. One example is the production and distribution of inert gas. To be able to produce enough inert gas of good quality, the boiler must be operated at high load. This implies that, for instance, turbo generators must be run at heavy load. Whenever a cargo tank is empty, the cargo pumps reduce their energy consumption, less steam is required, the boiler decreases its capacity, and the quality of the inert gas deteriorates (lower load equals an increase in oxygen content). This could eventually result in an explosive atmosphere in the tanks if the appropriate actions are not taken. Such a situation demands good communication between the officer in charge on deck and the officer in charge in the engine room. Any unwanted effects caused by any changes in the requirement of steam can be monitored and avoided if the engineer is aware and prepared for these changes. Thus, the design of the engine room must enable an easy and reliable means of communication with the bridge and the navigating officers.