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Lots of corners being cut there......yet another of the many horror stories which reached my ears about those days.
More than difficult to see how there was no coverage after the R/O's had been beached.....but no surprise.
Wray Castle ran a 6 day GMDSS GOC course covering 47 hours full time and were accused of "corner cutting" initially.
Other colleges operated a standard 2 week course with extra hours over the intervening weekend if required.
 

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All those regulations and procedures we held sacred for almost a century - thrown out the porthole.

GMDSS technology is superior to the old W/T system, BUT where it all falls down is the lack of a dedicated operator.

In a distress situation, the old man and mates will all be too busy saving the ship/fighting the fire/readying the boats to talk on the radio.

There should have been a dedicated ship's electronics officer (an ETO...), whose emergency station was the GMDSS gear.
 

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Even that wouldn't work. That's the very time the C/E would be screaming at you over the w/t that you're needed in the engine room. Why put anybody in that position? That's most of the reason I hated the Northern Venture, I was at the beck and call of too many people, sometimes simultaneously. As an R/O I was responsible only to the Old Man and everybody else had to ask nicely.
 

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I never met a shipmaster on the GOC who would have disagreed.
Surely the most unpopular mandatory qualification in UK maritime history.


:)
 

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I never met a shipmaster on the GOC who would have disagreed.
Surely the most unpopular mandatory qualification in UK maritime history.


:)

Was certainly the case in Oz. In the course of my job, I got to speak to lots of masters and mates...they all hated GMDSS.
 

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Was certainly the case in Oz. In the course of my job, I got to speak to lots of masters and mates...they all hated GMDSS.
Well, it was another job for them to do, wasn't it? Don't suppose they got paid any more for it.

All those times they told me that I didn't do anything, I should have replied: "Be careful what you wish for!"

John T
 

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I think we should hear some opinions from the officers of 'third world', as we thought of it in the wayback. With an extra body, unproductive save for icebergs and bad driving, they would have the field to themselves.

How many casualty situations did any of us actually take an effective part in (not just heard at a great distance courtesy of the sacred silence period)? I 'controlled the distress' of Mohamedia in 1975 and sometime before that we responded to an Urgency broadcast from a Liberian tanker anchored off Socotra (where, according to 'The Pilot', the last cases of canabalism had been recorded. Perhaps justifying XXX) doing some engine work "And from the shore they are shooting at us" we were dismissed after a brief exchange of greetings.

If I had had very many more instances to my name in the ten years it was in the job description I fear I would have started running out of people willing to sail with me as did Jonah.

Any dislike I have of SOLAS is that it concentrates too much on what to do when in trouble, like distress communications and too little on avoiding such situation by, for instance, having a qualifies and practiced/fluent electrical specialist onboard (and I don't remember being overworked even when I was just that).

GMDSS introduced for the first time mandated 'public correspondence', as we knew it. The reason being that it was recognised that one might be able to arrange a first stitch by seeking advice/information before the additional eight were required.
 

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David, you seem to forget that back in the olden days, the electric wireless was all we had. If you contributed to the saving of one life that probably justified your existence.

The world moved on, we all know that.

John T
 

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I remember it well John T. And in those days that was all the 1599's had as well although without the benefit of W/T or a W/Ter (and I cannot but agree that W/T in cir***stances where accuracy and intelligibility was essential W/T before telex was 'the thing'). Half my R/O time was pre-telex. Weather and Navwarnings, yes, safety requirements but still the majority of hours were put in watching or commercially working.

The only R/Os with a workload worthy of the name (in terms of radios anyway) were on high traffic vessels and their work had how much to do with safety? None until that iceberg came round.

(I have to say that Mohamedia was a matter of relaying information from the French warship via Djibouti on 8 MHz to those listening in on MF locally, the warship did not or could not communicate locally until in close range and she was already busy in the rescue when we came up to her. Aqabaradio kept telling me how many cattle there were onboard and I kept telling him I wasn't interested in cattle but people, information that was not forthcoming. At the time we were told that all had been saved but I read in a later publication that one was lost. We didn't wait to see her sink although the water was tippling over a forward hatch coming and she was clearly doomed).

I only bang on on the same-oh line because we do not all seem to have realised that things have moved on. And wrt to electrical expertise perhaps not as much as one might think.

Those true heroes on the transmitter key of the casualty might well have reflected that money might have been better spent preventing their predicament rather than trusting them to show their metal. I am glad I was never tested.
 

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"How many casualty situations did any of us actually take an effective part in"

Well, in my short sea career, I had the occasion to actually send out a XXX call, followed by an SOS call a few months later. Possibly suspected as being some kind of mercenary?
My first trip at sea on my own (20-yo) was VERY interesting & eventful to say the least.
I flew to Thessaloniki in Greece, November 1973 to join the Chemical Carrier MV EID. When leaving Heathrow, we all were taken down on the tarmac next to the plane hold and had to identify our luggage to an official. There was much carry-on re the flight, as I soon found out why. On arriving at Thessaloniki, I was picked up by the Military at the Airport desk, (Guns at the ready), when looking for the agent. I was taken to some Military compound and questioned by a Translator, with some Colonel types eyeing me suspiciously. And yes, the guards at the back all had machine guns across their chest, hands at the ready. This was quite worrying. After much searching of my suitcase and multiple explanations of my movements, the translator seemed to be trying to convince the others that I was who I said I was. The RADIO OPERATORS HANDBOOK, and my blues & whites helped. I was then taken to another room with 5 or 6 soldiers in attendance, and thought..is this a firing squad!!
Eventually, after about 30 minutes that seemed a lifetime to me, the translator told me do exactly as I’m told and all will be well. I was then taken by the military and driven to the Ship, where the 1st Officer was mighty relieved to see me. I appeared to have landed in Greece at the time of the revolt against the ’COLONELS’ military Junta ruling, by students in Athens & Thessaloniki. Some students & civilians were killed in the melee. After that, there was a curfew, and we would watch the Tanks come off ships and roll through the town, then loaded up again later to go elsewhere. This went on for about a week methinks. Anyway, THAT was day1!
A few months later on the same ship MV EID/GQBE, there seemed to have been some erratic movements reported by the third mate, on vessels nearby. It was discovered it was US that had lost our automatic steering, so the debate was started whether I should transmit URGENT or SAFETY signals. I was ordered to go the XXX route to advise other shipping of our predicament… Ah so, I remember those days having some shots at ‘steering’ the ship across the atlantic, much to the annoyance of those trying to dine, if I turned the wheel too much…..
To the SOS…Our illustrious captain (Forget his name now), was married to an American woman, and I noticed that ALL his phrases, etc, were becoming ‘americanised’. Just before he went on leave, he ordered the very colourful American METRIC charts for the bridge, and insisted that these be used upon receipt, instead of the admiralty charts. I should say, the shipowners were Marine transport Lines of New York (MATRALINES). So, we have the situation of a retired RFA Captain taken onboard as token Master, and a new set of charts. To cut a LONG story short, we are near Cape Verde (not far from Rio De Janerio), BRAZIL, 8 miles off the coast. We are 18ft or so draft, if I recall correctly, and as it turned out, the officer of the watch plots course on METRIC chart which he has gone into autopilot thinking it is the 6 FATHOM line.. well, the inevitable happens. I’m in the Shack and think we have just had a couple of real big waves, but after several of these, and some screaming from the bridge, I knew what was coming. SOS. The 1st Mate appeared on scene and immediately told me to ready myself for an SOS, then assist where required. The Mate sent the retired RFA master to his cabin (to keep him out of the way, I believe), and he took command. He was Danish & VERY competent. He would also keep shipping updated by the VHF Ch16. We ALL did as he ordered and he eventually got us off the bottom after a worry we were going to break up.
We had ships standing by for assistance, as the weather was wicked, but I remember taking soundings with the 3rd Mate, and the small foreign crew rushing about trying to retrieve belongings..idiots…Anyway, we limped on to SANTOS, Brazil, our destination, and had emergency repairs on the corrugated bottom, had a few good days/nights in Santos, before heading back to a Grilling by officials in our ‘HOME’ port of PASADENA on the Houston ship Channel. Tetraethyl lead was our Cargo..so there was much ado about health checks, etc, I remember that!
I NEVER told my parents any of this, especially the Greek affair, and I wondered what was ahead of me on my next vessel. That was on the Fyffes Reefer MV MANZANARES (Aug/Sept’74 to Jan’75), and it was a pleasure cruise compared to my MV EID adventure……..
 

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Things may have moved on but not necessarily for the better.
Having been involved in a number of incidents post GMDSS where my own ship responded to either an Urgency or Mayday I can perhaps offer some perspective from a Deckie on whom GMDSS was inflicted.
As an example, at the last Pan-Pan where we were the on scene vessel the bridge telephones (1 mobile, 1 fixed), email and RT were being worked constantly between ourselves, the casualty vessel, CG Helo, Coastguard shoreside and our own company all wanting to talk to us. Not forgetting internal vessel comms such as when launching/operating our FRC.
On the bridge there was the four of us for a large chunk of the time - Master and all three mates - (although we lost the 2nd mate when we had to launch our FRC) and the volume of communications was an enormous and unwelcome distraction whilst trying to cope with the job in hand. It's worth pointing out again that we weren't even the vessel in trouble!
I know a few individuals who've had serious onboard incidents e.g. fire/collision/grounding etc and they all the same thing - the volume of communications is simply too much to deal whilst trying to manage the onboard emergency.
In this modern world of instant communications by multiple means then a dedicated individual to handle them in emergencies is more necessary than ever before.
 

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#111 . As I implied, far to exciting for Mrs V's little boy. In statistical terms two incidents in 3 years suggests to me that I would prefer not to have sailed with you merely to have enjoyed a beer somewhere ashore (and not even that anywhere around the Aegean).
 

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#113
I recall sitting in one of the Bars in SANTOS, and got chatting with fellow tars, some of whom who had been waiting to assist if necessary, as it turned out. I had heard a fellow talking about the situation, and jumped in that I was that R/O. What a good day on the beer we had, followed by the obligatory female company to 'look after' our spending. The Barman was enthralled about this 'exciting' life as I recall. The medical checks on returning to Pasadena were quite heavy going, due to our Tetra-ethyl lead cargo. What fun days indeed. If my parents knew the half, I would have been prevented from sailing again, likely!
 

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#112

That does introduce us to some fact rather than opinion. However I would suggest that that was a symptom of being able to communicate without the volume being rationed by bandwidth or expertise. There are two solutions to processing communications. Have enough people (perhaps applications) to process it or have only that volume of communications that can be handled.

Look at how the cost of commercial working has evolved. As hangers-on encroach on the husbanding and regulation of shipping each era of communications ends with the volume being rationed (sometimes not just at its ending). Taking my own era with W/T giving way to ToR there was very soon an expansion the volume of characters exchanged even if not much difference in the amount of intelligence it conveyed. At least telex (including by satellite) allowed only the usership ashore to become inflated. When Email came along only the dogs were excluded from access to the communications, there being none of those onboard everyone else expected to be able to have their little piece of empire building catered for.

I have sat in the emergency HQ ashore plugged in by 'phone. It would be interesting to see the timeline of whether our multiple advices reached the appropriate ears onboard before they had come to the same conclusion. I don't think any advice given was wrong but it was not limited to that which was asked for or that which the ship could not provide for herself.

I imagine that the nearest you would have come to that scenario, pre GMDSS, would be on a 1599er and even then communications with the shore, if any, would have been to one dedicated officer in the coast station. There would have been no dedicated operator onboard. They would not necessarily have had more than three (two?) officers to man the bridge and field any communications barrage anyway.

It simply was not possible to provide communications between so many interested parties. Whilst suggesting that it should be rationed during an emergency would be met with derision however I have repeatedly made the point that procedures (such as engaging Class as the go-to application for determining damage status/remedy) must be based on a credible accident short of hopeless. This would, in my view, restrict the avenues for communication to the GMDSS mandatory outfit. Voice to local participants only and printed via Sat C to the MRCC in control. IOur drills however continued to used Email, Satphone, Satfax! without appreciation of the bandwidth that would be available in a maximum credible accident.

More is not always better. The final destination of 'more' is 'too much'.
 

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David I am in total agreement with you about the need to limit the amount of communication demanded, and provided for, in an emergency. One benefit of the limited facilities available during my time at sea (pre-TOR, pre-satcom) was the absolute necessity to prioritise. Only the most urgent and essential message exchange was possible because the transmission rate was slow - it all had to go through one transmit/receive channel (either Morse radiotelegraphy or radiotelephony) and be controlled by one person - the R/O. Since available time was limited, there was no spare capacity for long-winded or extraneous messages.

That arrangement concentrated minds aboard and ashore. The downside (apart from difficulties in establishing initial contact) was the inevitable delay involved in the exchange of information - translation from spoken or written language to Morse on board and reverse translation ashore at a coast station, relay of information between the coast station and the shore subscriber) but even that played a positive rôle in determining priorities and filtering out non-essentials.

I shudder to think of the present seamless end-to-end arrangements with those ashore - owners, charterers, Class and everyone including the dog - able to dial up and demand to speak to the Master, the Chief Engineer and the Manager of the Duty-Free Store.
 

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A quick google fails to find it for me Sparkie. I didn't know/remember that she had sunk in service (of course I remember the hijacking). A pointer would be appreciated.
 

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Hello all you electrical bretheren.
I've followed this conversation with considerable interest.
I served a pretty comprehensive apprenticeship with Mullards, apprentice training school-basic engineering skills, machine tools etc-time in the plant maintenance dept covering all the 'heavy' stuff, test equipment and instrumentation dept, and I came out of my time with City and Guilds Full Tech in Industrial Electronics.
I went away to sea with BP in 1970 and needless to say I was totally lost at first.
When I found my feet I didn't find ships particularly difficult.
I ended up with Manchester Liners who were well known for being progressive in technology.
I left the sea in 1980 and disappeared into the African bush to work in a sugar mill, so I missed the revolution in IT, and of course if you missed that you would find it difficult to catch up.

It seems to me that all you sparkies, and I do not say this in any disrespectful way, were trying, understandably, to protect your status.
On the ships that I sailed on, sparks and leckie were the two 'one man bands' and generally we only answered to either the Old Man or the 2/E.
I totally understand the dilemma of an ETO being pulled in two directions.
So, two questions for you chaps.
How difficult would it have been for a well qualified leckie to gain the comms certs?
And, I see the title ECO used, does that stand for Electrical and Comms Officer?
Sorry for all the waffle.
Roger
 

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I think your only trouble with MRGC would have been morse. It took me all of those two years to run up to speed and still got-by only on a re-test. Most, and regrettably it was most, failed on the learning side. Of the thirty or so who started out when I did only 4 of us passed first time (5 on the last day with a re-test!). Latterly Radar Maintenance was taken at the same time as the operator's ticket but it was something I never took. AMEC/T5 (with T3 Elect Eng) took another academic year and would not have been offered until you had 'some' seatime 'in charge'.

ECO was, indeed, Electronics and Communications Officer. Aspiring to a two and and half ring rank and pay scale. Unfortunately the market had different aspirations! ETO, same job, two rings and matching payslip.

I cannot resist commenting that although I agree that R/O and E/O were one man bands there was no good reason for them to be so.

There is more than a little truth in you comment on status. I am sure. However before we generalists get too cocky we should remember that the First Class plumbers are usually better qualified in electricity than any of us and several company cultures did not employ a dedicated electro-whatever at all. Keeping the culture was a duckpaddle. Imagine how much more difficult it would have been trying to keep two onboard with a pathetic demarkation based on Morse or possibly voltage?

Where were such qualified E/Os as yourself when we were looking for them?
 
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