Master Class: Taking Every Opportunity to Learn

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Learning from those having experience has always been an essential part of gathering knowledge for any deck and engine officer. Cadets working with the crew under the supervision of the Bosun, or senior engine room rating, is as important as being on the bridge, or engine room control room with the master, chief engineer and other officers. Taking advantage of unusual learning opportunities is also something that should be undertaken by the master with foresight.

I was recently involved in a Ship to Ship (STS) operation where oil cargo was being transferred from a tanker that had suffered a significant engine room fire. The damage to the fuel oil tanks and accommodation was extensive and the firefighting efforts had resulted in the flooding of compartments including the pump room, engine room and steering gear.

I attended onboard the lightering vessels during the discharge of the oil from the casualty’s cargo tanks by salvors. I was monitoring operations on behalf of the damaged vessel’s owners and insurers. As discharge got underway, many discussions took place with the master and officers regarding the incident and the processes that had been put in place between the interested parties when a Lloyd’s Open Form was signed for salvage services.

I was approached by the master, who had himself been asked by the cadets and junior officers, whether it was possible to ask questions about what happens when a casualty occurs.

An afternoon meeting was arranged and attended by the cadets and junior officers with an agenda containing a number of non-specific topics including the role of the salvor, salvage contracts, the responsibilities and potential liabilities of interested parties including owners, charterers, cargo owners and insurers. The stages of a salvage were also discussed including what takes place when a salvage turns into a wreck removal.

I was impressed by the knowledge that was shown and the depth of the questioning. Not least, this was an opportunity to find out information from a source that is likely to be encountered only once in a career, at least that is what is to be hoped.

I commend the master of that ship, and his cadets and junior officers for taking the opportunity to expand their professional knowledge when the chance presented itself. It is not something that I have encountered previously but is clearly something that every master should consider if it is made available.

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