Ships Personnel and their Duties at Sea
I was an Engineering Officer sailing on oil tankers for many years, and there we were taught that safety was paramount. This included adequate crewing of the ship to ensure that we all received the right amount of time off after completing our allotted duties, whether on day work or watch keeping in the engine room or bridge.
There were of course exceptions to this, such as repair to main engine at sea where it was imperative to get power restored. On these occasions I have worked over twenty hours, then stood a four hour watch to ensure the repairs were successful; but we always got time off to relax and catch up on the sleep.
Nowadays a breakdown of the main engine at sea, must be very hard on the engineers and engine room crew, due to the reduced manning levels.
In the engine room we had a Senior Engineer Officer and a Junior Engineer along with a greaser and boiler man, on a four hourly watch with eight hours off duty. All were fluent in the English language.
The bridge had a Senior Deck Officer on watch with two lookouts and sometimes a Cadet (Deck Apprentice), on the same watch keeping rota as the engine room.
As well as watch keeping duties we worked “field days" that consisted of a few hours overtime after the watch on deck or engine room as required by the Chief Officer or Second Engineer.
One ship I sailed on had six Chinese Fitters working in the engine room maintaining the various components such as spare cylinder heads and exhaust valve gear. There was also a deck crew working under the Bosun on day work, normally chipping and painting the deck in the constant battle against the dreaded corrosion, but who also worked on gas-freeing and tank cleaning duties whilst at sea. Finally we were all well looked after by the Catering Department who cooked our meals and kept our cabins tidy.
Due to the financial downturn in world markets the shipping companies have had to make cuts to remain financially viable. However as we will discover in the following sections, a reduction in manpower, coupled with less qualified personnel from different countries creating a language problem, can lead to accidents at sea.