Safety is of utmost importance on merchant navy ships, and the shipping industry has implemented various measures to ensure the safety of the vessel, crew, and cargo. In this article, we will discuss some of the safety measures implemented onboard merchant navy ships.
Travelling on a ship can be fun but it is also equally dangerous. Marine accidents happen frequently and can be avoided if proper safety procedures are followed. To minimize the hazards and injuries while travelling on water, proper precautions must be taken.
Apart from the safety regulations made mandatory for each ship by the IMO and the safety equipment carried for personnel protection on each ship, there are some safety measures that need to be taken by seafarers to ensure personal safety on the ship.
- Safety aspects onboard Merchant Navy Ships
- 2. Access to vessels
- 3. Working on board
Safety aspects onboard Merchant Navy Ships
Training and Certification
All crew members on board merchant navy ships are required to undergo training and obtain certification in accordance with international standards. This training covers various aspects of safety, including fire prevention and fighting, personal safety, and survival techniques.
Merchant navy ships are equipped with various safety equipment, including lifeboats, life rafts, life jackets, and fire-fighting equipment. This equipment is regularly inspected, maintained, and tested to ensure that it is in good working order and ready to be used in case of an emergency.
Navigation and Communication
Equipment Merchant navy ships are equipped with sophisticated navigation and communication equipment that enables the crew to navigate safely and communicate with other vessels, port authorities, and emergency services.
Safety Management Systems
Shipping companies have implemented safety management systems that are designed to identify potential hazards, assess risks, and implement measures to mitigate those risks. These systems are reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that they remain effective.
International Safety Standards
Merchant navy ships are required to comply with a range of international safety standards, including the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. These standards are designed to ensure that ships are built and operated to the highest safety standards.
A safety culture is encouraged onboard merchant navy ships, which promotes a positive safety mindset among crew members. This includes regular safety briefings, drills, and training sessions that help to reinforce the importance of safety and encourage a proactive approach to safety management.
Safe working on ships and vessels – Health and safety
Usually you should not have to inspect cargo or take samples on a vessel, but if you do, always make sure that the master, crew and any other operatives in the vicinity know what you intend to do. This guidance is intended to provide only an overview of the safety hazards that you may encounter when working on ships and other vessels.
- You should be aware of these hazards and avoid dangerous situations.
- You should not enter any area of a vessel that is not open to the general public without specific permission and, if necessary, supervision.
- If a recognised danger or hazard is unavoidable you should not proceed without adequate training, guidance and, where necessary, the appropriate permission from the master or owners of the vessel.
You should always refer to your national legislation and guidance.
Risk assessments and safe working practices should be available for staff working on ships or vessels.
1.1 Suitable safety equipment
Safety equipment must be available and should be worn. This may include:
- high-visibility clothing;
- life-jackets and/or ‘dry suits’;
- non-slip and anti-static footwear (usually with toe protection);
- safety helmets;
- intrinsically safe (IS) torch or working light (equipment that is safe to use in a flammable atmosphere).
If you have to enter confined spaces, additional specialist equipment (and training to use it) will be needed, including:
- personal alert safety system alarm (contains motion sensors and indicates when a person is unconscious);
- multi-gas alarm personal monitor (detects noxious gases);
- intrinsically safe (IS) radio/communications line;
- confined space rescue equipment (compressed-air breathing apparatus);
- safety harness and lifeline and location line;
- manual and automatic resuscitation system (MARS).
Health checks, training and regular refresher training are required before using compressed air breathing apparatus.
2. Access to vessels
This section contains guidance on how to board vessels safely. The legislation requires the master of a vessel to provide safe means of getting on and off the ship for anyone with legitimate business on board. This includes customs officers carrying out their duties.
Access to vessels will normally be provided by the accommodation ladder or gangway, which must be safely secured. Where the gangway crosses water, safety nets should also be in place.
You must never attempt to board a vessel until you are sure it is safe to do so. Ladders or gangways are often slippery or iced-up. Non-slip safety footwear will reduce the risk of an accident, but you should still take care — particularly if it is dark. In addition to the guidance below, you should also read the section on working at heights.
2.1 Boarding from the quay
When you board a vessel from the quayside, you should use the accommodation ladder or gangway provided. Before using them, check that:
- the gangway or ladder is properly rigged and secured;
- it is deployed at a safe angle and extends one metre above where you are going;
- the safety nets are in place if you are crossing over water;
- if you are boarding a roll-on/roll-off ferry, you should do so via the gangway unless the vehicle ramps are the only means of access;
- where the ship’s decks are below the level of the quay, access equipment should be provided on the vessel. Do not try to jump on board — you might slip or fall;
- remember that in tidal locations the vessel might rise or fall between your arrival and departure so the access might have changed, e.g. be steeper or not reach properly. If in doubt, ask the master or the deck officer responsible to make it secure.
2.2 Boarding from another vessel
Boarding one vessel from another can be particularly hazardous. Try to avoid it if at all possible. Never attempt this if a vessel is moving. Where it is necessary, it is normally the responsibility of the ship lying outboard (i.e. furthest from the dockside) to provide safe access to the other vessel. The only exception is where the outboard vessel has a much lower freeboard (i.e. the deck is much lower, so access would involve climbing), in which case the vessel with the higher freeboard is responsible for giving you safe access. This will usually involve using rope ladders and is the only time you should use them for gaining access. Don’t try to climb a rope ladder unless you have been shown how to do so safely.
Remember: you must always wear a lifejacket when boarding one vessel from another, and take extreme care — particularly in poor weather.
2.3 Using ladders
Do not use a portable ladder to gain access to a vessel. However, if you need to use one for another reason, it must be of good construction, well-maintained and of adequate strength (ladders marked ‘For domestic use’ must not be used). Also take the following safety precautions:
- secure the ladder at both ends to prevent slipping;
- make sure it extends at least one metre above the place you are trying to get to and keep both hands free while climbing;
- attach tools to a tool belt and store other equipment in a bag carried over your shoulder;
- always face the ladder when climbing or descending;
- and move one rung at a time.
Take extra care if you are wearing safety clothing such as a lifejacket or hard hat in case they catch on the rungs.
2.4 Personnel carriers
Personnel carriers are occasionally used by staff who board mobile off-shore drilling units. These are one of the more hazardous means of access and must be used only by people who have been specially trained. The oil industry can help with training any official staff who are likely to use personnel carriers. Any operations involving use of personnel carriers must be well planned and closely supervised. If you are to board a mobile off-shore drilling unit by this method, you should:
- understand how the transfer is to take place and be satisfied it is safe;
- wear a lifejacket and any other safety clothing you or your manager consider necessary;
- make sure that the standby vessel and rescue boat are in attendance;
- obey all instructions given to you by the person supervising the transfer.
This type of boarding must not take place in poor (stormy) weather.
3. Working on board
Several hazards are common to all areas of vessels. Insects are very resilient and can be found almost anywhere, rats have been found in holds and soiled items can be dropped by people in all areas and should not be touched without gloves.
Ship’s equipment: Never attempt to examine any equipment on board until you have consulted a responsible officer. Unskilled interference with safety equipment, navigational apparatus or electrical systems can affect the seaworthiness of the vessel, jeopardising the safety of the passengers and crew. You would be committing a criminal offence.
Passenger areas and crew quarters: When searching these areas, be wary of sharp objects which may be secreted in the upholstery. If you move any safety equipment, e.g. lifejackets, you must put it back before you leave the vessel.
Stowage compartments and lockers: Beware of hazardous chemicals and equipment. Look first and request assistance from the crew if you are not sure what the area contains.
Toilets: As well as presenting potential health hazards, in the form of discarded hypodermic needles, etc., toilets might contain corrosive cleaning chemicals and disinfectants. If you need to search these areas, wear appropriate safety clothing and equipment, particularly gloves, and wash your hands immediately afterwards.
Galleys: Electrical cooking equipment operates at high voltages and could be very hot. Beware of broken glass, etc. in rubbish bags and bins. Some vessels are equipped with galley lifts. These are particularly dangerous and should not be used for gaining access.
Holds: Holds can be particularly dangerous, especially if loading or unloading is in progress. Seek permission before entering. Wear appropriate safety clothing and a safety helmet. Take great care as the cargo may have shifted during the voyage, particularly if the sea has been rough.
Remember: refer to your national legislation and guidance when working in this dangerous environment.
3.1 What are the hazards?
Hazards on board vessels range in severity. You should only examine and sample cargo on a vessel when there is no alternative. Comprehensive training is required before entering some environments. You should never commence work without informing the master of the vessel or the deck officer responsible.
Some of the major hazards are listed below:
|Working alone: There is a danger that, when working alone, you might become trapped or injured and be unable to call for assistance.||Working alone: Avoid working alone, but if you have to, maintain good communications with someone responsible for checking on your safety and always notify someone else of your intentions and location before you start. Remember to check your radio before leaving the office.|
|Lighting: It is the responsibility of the vessel’s master to provide adequate lighting — but this is not always possible.||Lighting: If adequate light is not available, e.g. by opening hatches or doorways, a suitable IS torch or working light may be used.|
|Slips and falls: The deck of the vessel might be wet or coated with oil or fish residues which add to the risk of slipping.||Slips and falls: Wear appropriate anti-static non-slip shoes/boots. Pay particular attention in the vicinity of deck machinery, where lubricants may be spilt, or if leaking cargo is identified.|
|Machinery: A variety of machinery may be in use when the vessel is berthed, including:|
ventilation equipment;generators;winches;cargo-moving machinery, including fork-lift trucks, cranes, conveyors or elevators.
|Machinery: Keep well away from moving machinery and wear high-visibility clothing and a safety helmet. Remember: the operator may have a limited view, particularly in the hold. You must observe any instructions from officers or crew.|
Remember: in tidal basins the ship’s mooring lines may require frequent adjustment using winches. Keep well away from these operations.
|Asbestos: Modern vessels should not contain any hazardous asbestos, but older vessels may contain asbestos as fire-proofing or thermal insulation.||Asbestos: Pay particular attention when on older vessels or vessels registered in countries with lower standards. Do not disturb any pipe-lagging or insulation. If you consider there may be a risk, leave the area immediately and notify the master.|
|Ship’s equipment: You may be offered the chance to use safety equipment supplied by the vessel. However, you should not do so unless you have been trained how to use it and are satisfied that it is in working order.||Ship’s equipment: It should not be necessary to use equipment supplied by the master of the vessel. If needed, official equipment should always be used — with the appropriate training.|
|Cold stores: Cold stores may have self-locking mechanisms and may contain a special atmosphere to preserve the goods. They are often maintained at -25 °C or lower.||Cold stores: Always station someone outside the door to call for assistance if you get into difficulty.Check that there is adequate oxygen and that there are no other hazardous gases in the store before you enter.Wear insulation clothing to protect you from the cold.Limit the amount of time you spend in the cold store to make sure your core body temperature does not drop too low.|
|Contact with oils and other spills: You might come across oil spills or leaking cargo. The oil or cargo could be hazardous, either by contact or by inhalation.||Contact with oils and other spills: If you see a spillage or leak from a container, check to see if it has been identified. Unless it has been absolutely ruled safe by a competent person, withdraw immediately and notify the master. Avoid all contact with spills even if they are deemed safe, as you may suffer a skin reaction. Seek proper medical attention if any symptoms occur.|
Remember: even chemicals that are safe on their own may react together (or with atmospheric water vapour) releasing toxic fumes or giving off sufficient heat to cause injury or start a fire.
|Excessive noise: Many items of noisy machinery may be at work on a vessel even when it is berthed, including:|
ventilation equipment;generators;winches;cargo-moving machinery, including fork-lift trucks, cranes, conveyors or elevators.
|Excessive noise: You should assess the risk and limit exposure or use ear-defenders. Prolonged exposure to even moderate noise levels can damage hearing.|
Remember: excessive noise can hinder communication and reduce your awareness of other hazards.
|Confined spaces: As mentioned earlier, confined spaces on board ships, including:|
ballast tanks,storage lockers,cargo holds and tanks, andengine and machinery roomscan pose a wide range of hazards, including toxic fumes and substances.
|Confined spaces: Never enter any confined spaces without the appropriate training and equipment. A risk assessment should always be carried out and permission sought from the master or the deck officer in charge before you enter any confined space.|
The guidance contained in this section intended to serve as a general reminder of the risks that are sometimes encountered during the examination and sampling procedure and of the safety equipment that you should use and precautions that you should take.
You must refer to the legislation and the guidance of your national administration for more information.
In conclusion, safety is a top priority onboard merchant navy ships, and the shipping industry has implemented various measures to ensure that the vessel, crew, and cargo are protected. These measures include training and certification, safety equipment, navigation and communication equipment, safety management systems, compliance with international safety standards, and a safety culture. The success of the shipping industry depends on its ability to operate safely and efficiently, and the safety measures implemented onboard merchant navy ships play a crucial role in achieving this goal.
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