Master's Paperwork

John Briggs
2nd May 2010, 02:37
It is nearly fourty years now since I came ashore and the memory gets a wee bit fuzzy but I remember the paperwork that was so important to the effective and efficient running of the ship.
There was of course the dreaded and hated Portage Bill that had to be done every month and was a real bastard to balance. (I was usually 1 or 2 cents out ... grrrrr!)
Then of course the statutory documents were pretty straitforward as long as you kept them up to date - Ship's Register, Tonnage certificate, P&I Club Policy, Oil record books, etc. One thing you had to keep your eye on was the derat certificate (update six monthly).
Then came the papers that were port specific, customs clearance from last port, crew list, articles, crew passports, crew vaccinations, health declaration, bonded stores, customs declaration, narcotics list, etc.

I have probably forgotten some but the amount of paperwork, although significant, was within the capabities of the normal master.

After coming ashore I was working for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in the area of ship administration and regulation. Over the years I watched in horror as more and more requirements and paperwork was heaped upon Ship Masters. Not only that but the amount of inspections carried out in every port is horrendous. I just wonder how Masters nowadays cope.

Any thoughts?

Sister Eleff
2nd May 2010, 11:45
Is that why you joined the 'Golden Dreamer', there's never a mention of paperwork there (Jester)

John Dryden
2nd May 2010, 12:13
One thing from JB's list I remember is the crew list because I got lumbered with the job of typing them out on all three Bank boats I was on.Used to take me ages as I can,t type fast and Indian and Pakistani names are anything but short!No word processors or photo copying in those days just a clanking old typewriter.

teb
2nd May 2010, 13:02
John-you should have sailed with BF -the 1st R/O would have done it all for you-at least thats how it was when I sailed with them,:sweat:

John Briggs
2nd May 2010, 13:07
John-you should have sailed with BF -the 1st R/O would have done it all for you-at least thats how it was when I sailed with them,:sweat:

It was like that in British India as well teb but they had Pursers. My time as Master was served in Hong Kong tramps and although I could at times get assistance from Sparkie and the Chief Steward it was basically down to me!

trotterdotpom
2nd May 2010, 13:30
I had to do all that work with Scottish Ship Management. One trip we were heading for Christmas Island from Japan, the Old Man had just joined and forgot that we were going to Singapore for a crewchange! Don't ask me how he managed that, I'm just a simple Sparkie. Fortunately, he remembered before we had to back track, but it gave me only a couple of days to get all the paperwork boxed off. After a mad panic and a sleepless night, I was just putting the finishing touches to an 8 foot long accounts form that was stretched the length of the radio room, when in came the Old Man with the Somali bosun. "Sparks, there's been an earthquake in Somalia and the sailors want to make donations, just knock it off their wages will you?" Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh!!!

That's how I found out that acting like a lunatic will always get you a seat on a bus.

John T.

Brad
4th May 2010, 06:32
I've worked at sea, in "the office" (*groans*) and now as a pilot and I have noticed the same trend with paperwork. Its rediculous and now with the modern comms we have, every Master is instantly contactable via email.

Something that used to frequently happen when I was in the office was that every man and his dog would be emailing the old man about whatever sprung to mind. I asked one superintendant about it after I noticed he sent the master on one of our tankers, an email about some manifold to bridge dimensions and DWT/GRT info he needed. I asked him why didn't he get of his backside and go the filing cabinet where ALL the ships data and drawings are, and measure it off himself instead of annoying the skipper with it.

His answer was a shrug and a comment that the old man has nothing to do anyway, so he might as well answer emails rather than playing solitaire on the computer all day long.

This is what comes about when you have engineers running shipping companies.

Billieboy
4th May 2010, 09:09
I've worked at sea, in "the office" (*groans*) and now as a pilot and I have noticed the same trend with paperwork. Its rediculous and now with the modern comms we have, every Master is instantly contactable via email.

Something that used to frequently happen when I was in the office was that every man and his dog would be emailing the old man about whatever sprung to mind. I asked one superintendant about it after I noticed he sent the master on one of our tankers, an email about some manifold to bridge dimensions and DWT/GRT info he needed. I asked him why didn't he get of his backside and go the filing cabinet where ALL the ships data and drawings are, and measure it off himself instead of annoying the skipper with it.

His answer was a shrug and a comment that the old man has nothing to do anyway, so he might as well answer emails rather than playing solitaire on the computer all day long.

This is what comes about when you have engineers running shipping companies.

What was that Brad? do I detect some animosity? You must know the basic engineering principle; that if you have a machine, then that does the work, the Engineer, just watches and adjusts it!

James_C
4th May 2010, 12:40
I've worked at sea, in "the office" (*groans*) and now as a pilot and I have noticed the same trend with paperwork. Its rediculous and now with the modern comms we have, every Master is instantly contactable via email.

Something that used to frequently happen when I was in the office was that every man and his dog would be emailing the old man about whatever sprung to mind. I asked one superintendent about it after I noticed he sent the master on one of our tankers, an email about some manifold to bridge dimensions and DWT/GRT info he needed. I asked him why didn't he get of his backside and go the filing cabinet where ALL the ships data and drawings are, and measure it off himself instead of annoying the skipper with it.

His answer was a shrug and a comment that the old man has nothing to do anyway, so he might as well answer emails rather than playing solitaire on the computer all day long.

This is what comes about when you have engineers running shipping companies.

Quite right Brad, and it's a practice that's now widespread amongst shipping companies.
With many outfits now it's not uncommon for the Old Man to receive upwards of 80 emails a day from the bods in the office, many of them daft questions which could be answered by a little bit of effort.
One thing most have in common is that they are completely irrelevant to the day to day running of the ship.

A problem which you've touched on, was itself mentioned in a letter to the NUMAST telegraph some months ago by a serving Old Man.

This is from the February 2009 edition of the NUMAST Telegraph
Web link: http://www.nautilusint.org/Resources/Telegraph%20Files/February%202009.pdf

I quote below:

"For a number of years now I have noticed a subtle but distinct change in the way shipping companies have been run, and I believe this a subject that deserves some sort of debate/discussion.
However, despite my saying otherwise, by the time some people will have read this they will be rushing off to gather pen and paper to accuse me stirring ‘oil and water’ — and I repeat this is not the intention.
Rather, I would prefer that anyone reading this were to look upon the next few words as an honest attempt to stimulate a healthy constructive debate/discussion.
So the crux of my letter is to question the apparent demise of any influence from the deck department in the running of shipping companies in life at sea now.
With the various companies I have sailed with over the last 20 years in particular I have seen a steady decline in the role of the deck department in the general day-to-day running of their ships.
Now all matters concerning the daily running of ships appear to lie in the hands of engineering superintendents/managers, and I would suggest this is often to the detriment of the ship.
Before I go any further, I am at pains to stress that I have never questioned their role with regards the running of the engineering department onboard — it is not my department, and I do not have more than the basic knowledge with which to make any serious judgement.
However, I do have the knowledge and experience to question their knowledge with regards the running of the deck department and in the majority of cases (not all) I find them wanting in either knowledge or, sadly, interest.
The last five dry-dockings/refits I have done have been frustrating, to say the least.
Again, I stress that whatever work was carried out down below I have not commented on — but deck-wise it has been difficult to restrain myself at times.
What gives these superintendents/managers the right to become ‘paint experts’ on the basis of watching an hour long promotional DVD or doing a three-day course — and then argue the point with someone with years of experience behind them?
What do they know about cargo gear, wires, running gear, anchors or the general requirements of the deck?
Should you question their limited knowledge on this, the look on their face is priceless.
We seem to leave dry-docks/refits now with more problems on deck than we went in with and I put this down to a lack of knowledge and sadly even less interest.
I see this as a further nail in the coffin of professionalism where shipping companies want total control and no one to question their motives/plans.
With cheaper less well trained officers and crews from a mishmash of nationalities there is a reluctance to question anything, so these companies achieve what they want — a subservient crew.
I am well aware of the importance and need of a well founded shore-based engineering department within modern shipping companies.
However, you ignore the input of an equally well founded shore-based deck department within the company at your peril and in time this will come back to haunt you.
So, I leave the floor open to you — and sincerely trust these few words are not used as an excuse to stir the ‘oil and water’ which, with the odd exception, has been relatively smooth on the ships I have sailed on.

Name & No. Supplied"

Brad
5th May 2010, 02:26
I could also add a lot of comment to a debate on this subject. One of the things that finally made me realise that my days at sea were done was when the company announced that the Chief Engineer was henceforth responsible for ALL maintainance on board on a day to day basis.

This meant that the deck department had little to no input as to the planning and execution of ANY deck work, even down to painting and chipping.

The mate was reduced to giving the Chief a "wish list" of jobs and projects on deck.

This caused so many problems on many ships (especially those that possessed chief engineers with "large personalities") that I knew my time had come.

James_C
5th May 2010, 07:54
Brad,
I suppose there's no prizes for guessing the background of the Gent ashore who brought in that ruling?

surfaceblow
5th May 2010, 20:39
I could also add a lot of comment to a debate on this subject. One of the things that finally made me realise that my days at sea were done was when the company announced that the Chief Engineer was henceforth responsible for ALL maintainance on board on a day to day basis.

This meant that the deck department had little to no input as to the planning and execution of ANY deck work, even down to painting and chipping.

The mate was reduced to giving the Chief a "wish list" of jobs and projects on deck.

This caused so many problems on many ships (especially those that possessed chief engineers with "large personalities") that I knew my time had come.

While sailing Chief Engineer I got my own paperwork night mares. On the US MARAD ships that are on standby the ships do not have Captains onboard and the ships Chief Engineer is left in-charge of the vessels. One would be foolish if he or she did not rely on the Chief Mates input in the daily operation of the vessel.

On the flip side on the last ship I sailed on has Chief Engineer on an MSC ship (USNS) operated by a contract company I had a maintenance program that generated the monthly maintenance task for all of the departments onboard. Every month I would hand out the tasks required to the department heads. When the task was performed the Department Heads or the individual could check off the task on the sheet or enter it on the computer. The computer network would send work completed and updated machinery history to MSC and the operating company daily. I would never dream of checking the Mates process and would take the word of the Mate that the jobs were completed. Plus there is not enough time in a day to keep up with the parts used and answering the flood of emails and compose the endless reports and write the repair and supply requisitions. One report was for why I was burning a half a gallon of fuel more than the sister vessel per hour. When I answered that I had the air conditioner on while the other vessel did not. I had to calculate the plants efficiency and SWAG (Scientific Wild A** Guess) the efficiency of the sister ships plant.

Quarterly the MSC representatives would come onboard to spot check that the maintenance was completed (one Deck type and one Engine type). After one of these maintenance reviews it was found that over 75 per cent of the work claimed to be completed by the Deck Department was not completed (the color coded plastic grease fitting caps were still painted over from the last shipyard period that was 18 months earlier).

At the after action review the Company Port Engineer and Port Captain (ex Navy mustang) told me that it was my job has the "Maintenance Officer" onboard to check ALL of the maintenance items onboard were completed each month.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
5th May 2010, 22:04
The deck department's influence has been a long time a-dying.

The shipping company I work for now is monumentally conservative and still runs itself on the Blue Funnel principles of the 1960's (and I kid you not!)

Our Marine Supers saw the way the wind was blowing and with admirable presence of mind they grabbed the "Safety" function for themselves. Our Group President is an ex-Master, but there is no doubt that real power lies with the plumbers' union. This was brought home to me in 1996 when the fleet's bunker bill was on my desk with a mission to "do something about it".

It would have done as the national budget of a smaller country!

The quantity of 180CST, diesel and (Lord give me strength!) Gas Oil that we were consuming in a fleet that was driven almost entirely, as it still is, by modern crosshead two strokes with fairly sensible generators, was outrageous, so I rashly suggested that perhaps our ships might be compelled to operate their engines as their makers had intended, and then went on to suggest that we start imitating P&OCL and using 600CST for our big boxboats.

It was not so much that the wrath of the engineers aboard four hundred and thirty ships, forced to work a bit harder, descended on my head; it was the way in which they had the clout to ensure that my proposal was pidgeonholed under "interesting idea, but impractical" and I was told to concentrate on getting a bigger discount instead! (Whaaa)

In CNCo the Marine Super was formally abolished by management until Mike Parker, who was a stalwart of the MNOA, pointed out the terms of the LADY GWENDOLEN case (which should indeed be required reading for all superintendents) to the Powers that Were, whereupon the office of Nautical Adviser was created and occupied by Jimmy Lough who not long afterwards was Fleet Manager. After Jimmy came his chosen protege Alan Lloynd who recently retired as MD of HK Salvage and Towage. So there is hope for the deck department yet!

Ian Brown
6th May 2010, 04:13
Depressingly I see no sign of paperwork reducing or even leveling off.
In the last 22 years as Master it has increased exponentialy.
If the Master or the Chief Engineer does not respond immediately to the torrent coming in during office working hours then the backlog quickly builds up and then the demands for a response starts. One measure of your efficiency these days is how quickly you respond to office messages.
If the Sat comms goes down for a day or two then the resulting backlog is truly horrendous
Consequently the 2 most knowledgeable persons onboard are largely removed from concentrating on their departments and monitoring the actual work/watches done by the other officers.
Add to this charterers, port authorities additional layers of paperwork and messages and you begin to wonder how it will all end.
A long way from passing Sparks my hand written message book with about 6 messages a day to the office.