“I’ve done my AMOS for the day!”
“If it’s Tuesday, it must be cargo pumps!”
“It is found that anything that can go wrong at sea generally does go wrong sooner or later, so it is not to be wondered that owners prefer the safe to the scientific …. Sufficient stress can hardly be laid on the advantages of simplicity. The human factor cannot be safely neglected in planning machinery. If attention is to be obtained, the engine must be such that the engineer will be disposed to attend to it”.
The first comment was made by a junior officer on board a ship that my son was serving on, a few months ago. The second is a joke, written by Michael Grey, in Fairplay, in the 1970s when Planned Maintenance was a new thing. The third was written by Alfred Holt, Shipowner, (capital ‘S’”) in 1877, and I’m obliged to Duncan Cameron for the reference.
The young man who announced that he had “done his AMOS” was of course letting it be known that he proposed to do no more work for the ship that day, beyond keeping his watch. This was not considered to be the ‘right approach to the job’, by those who heard it said, but it is certainly a common one.
There are people ashore in shipowners and shipmanagers’ offices who are not aware of just how prescriptively they regulate the working and resting hours of their colleagues at sea and how very inefficient this is. I am not alluding to the ILO Convention!
We have come to expect our colleagues at sea to deal with user-unfriendly, indeed downright clumbungy, IT interfaces, to waste time inputting data more than once, and to cheerfully comply with directions that require hours of wasted time on ‘work arounds’. The assumption seems to be that our colleagues at sea have nothing to do.
This shows the growing gap between those at sea and those ashore.
The standard form of document to be completed before entry into an enclosed space, as officially blessed by the IMO, can run to three pages. All very worthy, but if, as is so often the case, it is completed on the computer in the ship’s office, it is quite useless. It is in the wrong place – it should be on a clipboard at the entry to the space, and if it is completed in ballpoint and it has a few grease smudges in it, it is a far more convincing document. As Bob Couttie of Maritime Accident Casebook says, “If you don’t trip over the BA set on your way through the door or the hatch, something is wrong!”
You will notice that Alfred Holt, an eminent Victorian if ever there was one, a man who trained as a locomotive engineer, developed the compound expansion steam engine, and invented liner shipping, a man whose fleet was neither classed nor insured for a hundred years, as neither he nor his heirs wanted to lower their standards that far, a man who first set out many of the principles of ship operation that we use today , was more concerned about the ‘human interface’ – in 1877 – and showed more understanding of the realities of life at sea than many of us do today.
With the help of a few friends, I carried out an unscientific straw poll. I asked them to ask their shipmates, “Would you take a pay cut in exchange for broadband at sea?” The answer was overwhelmingly “Yes”. I’m not aware that any crew manager has asked this question – if someone has, can they let me know what they found?
Of course, in today’s conditions, pay cuts and rumours of pay cuts are the everyday talk of people at sea, so it may be that the people who replied that they would take a pay cut in exchange for broadband were just assuming that the pay cut was already inevitable, and grabbing the broadband along the way, so to speak.
But it does show just how much people at sea want to be like everyone else, and how much they resent the sort of patronising attitude embodied in this remark by a very old friend of mine, by no means a bad man, who is rather prominent in Hong Kong shipowning circles: “I won’t fit broadband – if something is wrong at home, it’s better if they don’t know!”
He obviously hasn’t looked to see how many smartphones his ratings – let alone his officers – each own – most will have at least two – or just how quickly they ‘tune in’ when they can get a signal and how savvy they are with SIM cards.
He’s no Alfred Holt.
I know of at least one ship where the crew, having spotted the ‘plumbing’ for the broadband antenna that the owners decided not to fit, are clubbing together to buy one and fit it… its running costs will be paid for out of the ship’s social fund, because, as they say, that is what the social fund is for!
We should recognise the reality of life today – people need access to social media. End of!