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the International Journal Volume 11

on Marine Navigation Number 1 and Safety of Sea Transportation March 2017


The Role of the Master in Improving Safety Culture

Onboard Ships

international organisations, flag and port administrations, classification societies and shipowners the safety
Inthispaperexamplesofrecentaccidentsrelatedto different dimensions of safety culture are provided. The

1 INTRODUCTION reduce the probability of human failure it is vital to

understand the factors that influence safety
The functioning of marine transportation, a large performance. Traditionally, accidents have been
scalesociotechnicalsystem,affectshumans,societies viewed as a result of inadvertent (slips, lapses,
and natural environment globally. For such complex fumbles and mistakes) or deliberate (routine,
system, with a broad range of stakeholders located optimising and situational violations) unsafe acts
worldwide, safety performance is extremely (Reason 2001). Considering human failure as a cause
important because exhibited failure modes can have instead of a symptom of a problem deeper inside a
severe consequences, as demonstrated by series of system resulted with remedial actions focusing on
tragic events (Anderson 2003). Therefore, global controlling human behaviour with introducing or
maritime community put substantial efforts into enforcing existing procedures and/or implementing
preventinglossesoflife,ships/floatingstructuresand new technological solutions (Dekker 2014). On the
damages to the environment. Historically, the contrary,currentapproachtopreventionofaccidents
maritime international regulatory bodies had includes looking for organizational decisions or
attempted to improve shipping safety by regulations policies, operational conditions and technological
developedoramendedasaresponsetoaccidentsthat features that created situations in which human
haveoccurred.ByadoptionoftheInternationalSafety failurecouldoccur.
Management Code (ISM Code) by the International Organizational safety culture is one of the key
Maritime Organisation a shift from prescriptive and factorsthatcontributetosafety(Berg2013).Astrong
reactive approach towards proactive approach was safety culture is a barrier against psychological or
determined.OneoftherequirementsoftheISMCode behavioural factors that interacting in unanticipated
istoimprovesafetybyanalysingaccidents. ways lead to accidents. Several leadership
According to literature data, more than 80% of characteristics and associated behaviours of masters
marine accidents are attributed to human failure. To cancontributetocreatingandmaintainingapositive

safety culture and thus impact the ship safety. This learningandshortageoftimecomplicateorganisation
paperreviewsanddiscussestheroleofthemasterin and delivering of training courses. A proactive
improvingsafetycultureonboardships.Thepaperis approachtosafetyisaprerequisiteforlearninginan
organised as follows. The second section briefly organisation.Demandingaspectsofshippingsuchas
reviewsthemaritimesafetyculture.Thethirdsection working and living onboard 24/7, periods of high
describes connection between master`s leadership workload, harsh environment onboard can obstruct
style and safety culture onboard ship illustrated by collecting relevant information and willingness to
examplesofaccidents.Theconclusionsarepresented introduce changes. Developing a just culture is a
inthefinalsection. challengingtaskduetothefactthatblameculturehas
existed for a long time. All these issues hamper not
only achieving and sustaining a safety culture, but
also design, execution, and interpretation of research
2 MARITIMESAFETYCULTURE studies that could contribute to improvement
Although there is a plethora of research related to
safety culture there is no uniform definition of the
concept in the literature. One of the definitions is:
The safety culture of an organisation is the product 3 MASTERSSHAPESAFETYCULTURE
of individual and group values, attitudes,
perceptions,competencies,andpatternsofbehaviour It is widely acknowledged that leadership is a
thatdeterminethecommitment to, and the style and primary antecedent of safety climate, important
proficiency of, an organisations health and safety aspect of a safety culture (Borgersen et al. 2013).
management(HSC1993).Oneoftheissuesthathave Unique aspects of shipping contribute to the
been debated among researchers is usage of terms relationship between master as a leader and crew as
safety culture and safety climate. According to followers.Themasterhasultimateresponsibilityand
Cooper(2000)safetyclimateisapsychologicalaspect authority for navigation and the safety of the ship.
of safety culture. Safety climate, i.e. values, attitudes Additionally, a vessel represents both working and
and norms regarding safety can be measured by living environment where workers interact which
questionnaires or interview based methods. Two othermoreoftenthaninotheroccupations.Therefore
other aspects, behavioural and situational, include it could be expected that masters attitude towards
activities, actions and behaviour and policies, safetyandlevelofhisinvolvementinsafetyactivities
procedures, management system and practices willshapethesafetybehaviourofthecrewmembers.
For example, a study performed among sailors
Aneffectivesafetyculturerequiresleadershipand (n=244)workingonhighspeedcraftsoperatinginthe
commitment from management, effective twoway Norwegian passenger ferry industry demonstrated
communication,employeeinvolvement,existenceofa that there is a positive relationship between safety
learning culture and existence of a just culture (HSC climateandshipboardsafety(Fenstadetal.2016).An
1993). Therefore, creating and sustaining a positive analysis of the questionnaire survey, which included
safetycultureisacomplexprocessinallsafetycritical variablesMycaptainappreciatesthattheemployees
systems such as aviation, nuclear power plants and takeupsafetyissues,Iamsuretogetsupportfrom
medical system. Several characteristics of maritime mycaptain if I prioritize safety in all situations and
transportation additionally hamper the improvement Mycaptainsetsagoodexampleregardingattention
of safety culture. The maritime transportation to safety showed that master`s safety orientation
involves a broad range of stakeholders. It is a highly positively influences safety performance. Similarly,
globalised industry, and they are usually located in studyindicatesthatthebettertheperceivedqualityof
different countries, with different administrative the regulatory activities (variables The Norwegian
capacity and willingness to enforce legal MaritimeAuthoritysinspectionofseafarersworking
requirements.Duetomulticulturalandmultinational and living conditions is good and The Norwegian
aspects of shipping it is difficult to achieve uniform MaritimeAuthoritydoesagoodjobofmotivatingthe
values regarding safety culture. Cost reductions and industrytotakeresponsibilityforsafetythemselves),
efficiency demands, seen as necessity of sustaining the shipboard safety is more positive. On the
competitiveness, also might compromise safety. A contrary, shipowners efficiency demands (variables:
comprehensive understanding of working and living Theshipownercompromisesonsafetytocutcosts,
environment onboard is vital to develop an effective The shipowner compromises on safety in order to
safetymanagementsystem.Duetodiversityofroles, keep to the timetable, Owing to the shipowners
tasksandconditionsonboarditisnecessarytoengage demand for efficiency, we sometimes have to violate
all crew members. However, it is difficult to secure procedures and Following the safety procedures is
the involvement of heterogeneous and continually notrewardedintheshippingcompanywhereIwork
changing personnel. In addition to the high turnover wereamajorcontributortonegativesafetyclimate.
of the labour force, relatively long distance between
the ship owner and the vessel perplexes the The leadership qualities also affect safety culture.
development of safety management (Lappalainen Research in safetycritical organizations show that
2010).Acommunicationbetweenstakeholderscanbe followersperceptions,attitudesandbeliefsrelatedto
ineffective due to cultural and language differences safety are positively influenced by authentic
(Berg 2013). Moreover, a hierarchical organisation of leadership, characterised by relational transparency,
shipping, with steep authority gradient, may hinder moral perspective, balanced processing and self
communication.Variouslevelsofcompetenceofcrew awareness.Astudyconductedinashippingcompany
members, different cultural influences that affect that trades internationally examined relationship

between authentic leadership and safety climate Engrossment with the traffic situation by master and
(Borgersen et al. 2013). The questionnaires were OOW,insufficientnumberofpersonnelonthebridge
administrated to 499 allmale, Filipino crew and toproperlymonitorthevesselsnavigation,andpoor
officers working on the 23 general cargo vessels. communication between present bridge team
Respondentswereaskedtoratethecurrentcaptain`s members with unclear specific roles resulted in poor
qualities regarding relational transparency (five situational awareness. Bridge resource management
items, e.g., My captain admits mistakes when they onboard Hamburg was ineffective due to shortfalls in
are made), moral perspective (four items, e.g., My additional important elements: shared mental model
captain demonstrates beliefs that are consistent with and challenge and response. For example, Seven
action), balanced processing (three items, e.g., My minutesbeforethegrounding,boththeOOWandthe
captain listens carefully to different points of view cadet plotted the vessels position on the chart.
before coming to conclusions), and selfawareness Despite both plotted positions being incorrect, the
(four items, e.g., My captain shows that he or she cadets fix did at least indicate that the vessel was
understandshowspecificactionsimpactothers).The running into danger. Unfortunately he did not feel
results indicated that authentic leadership was empowered to challenge the OOW and chose to
positively related to crew perceptions of the level of silently erase his own position, leaving the OOWs
safety climate. However, according to Berg (2013) incorrect position on the chart(Marine Accident
some current masters do not possess some of the Investigation Branch 2016a). Furthermore, a number
several desirable characteristics: clear twoway ofmastersdecisionsthatwerenotinaccordancewith
communication, tough empathy, openness to the companys SMS remained unchallenged by
criticism, empathy towards different cultures, ability officers.
to create motivation and a sense of community,
knowing the crews limitations, being a team player. Acommonfactorappearinginthesetwoaccidents
Therefore it could be expected that such leaders will was intentional noncompliance with the companys
negatively affect safety culture and consequently SMS. In both cases masters were directly responsible
safety. for an inadequateness of voyage planning and
ignorance of bridge watchkeeping best practice.
One example of the accident where poor safety Moreover,theydidnotapplytoolsofeffectivebridge
cultureplayedaroleisgroundingofaUKregistered team management such as briefing with the bridge
general cargo vessel, which resulted in sea pollution team and encouraging open communication which
and a loss of ship (Marine Accident Investigation enable team members to raise any concern anytime.
Branch 2015). In February 2015, Lysblink Seaways Therefore nobody challenged voyage planning or
grounded when its sole watchkeeper, chief officer, reportedalcoholintoxication.Duetopoorleadership
lostsituationalawarenessduetotheeffectsofalcohol and management by the masters, available
consumption.Theinvestigationrevealedanumberof knowledge and resources were not used properly.
safety failures that could be traced back to Because the masters lead by example, it is vital that
organizational failures. The passage plan had not they don`t adopt Do as I say, not as I do attitude.
beenpreparedandimplementedinaprofessionaland The importance of acting consistently and applying
precautionary manner and it had not been safety standards should be underlined during
appropriately entered into the Electronic Chart educationandtraining.
System, used as principal means of navigation.
Namely, some available safety features had not been The companys management could contribute to
set up, alarm for cross track error had been the development of situations in which the master
inappropriatelysetupandtheaudioalarmhadbeen makes wrong decisions or behave against his/her
silenced. Also, the bridge navigational watch alarm knowledge, experience and feelings due to bad
system had not been switched on, contrary to the communication between them, disagreeable
requirements of the Safety Management System environmentorpressure.
(SMS). Intentional crew noncompliance regarding Capsize and sinking of the Cyprus registered
policiesandprocedureswasnormalpracticeonboard cementcarrierCemfjordthatresultedinlossof8lives
Lysblink Seaways. Despite the owners zero alcohol occurred in January 2015 in the Pentland Firth,
policy, significant alcohol consumption by the crew, Scotland (Marine Accident Investigation Branch
obvious from the frequent replenishment of the 2016b). Cemfjord capsized in extraordinarily violent
bondedstore,hadgoneunchallenged. seaconditionscreatedbygaleforcewindsopposinga
TheBahamasregisteredpassengervesselHamburg strong ebb tidal stream. Because such conditions are
groundedintheSoundofMull,ScotlandinMay2015 commonly experienced within the Pentland Firth,
because the bridge team did not recognise that she they were predictable and passage through the
was approaching the buoy from an unsafe direction Pentland Firth should not have been attempted.
(Marine Accident Investigation Branch 2016a). However,themasterdecidedtoproceedthroughthe
Primary means of navigation were paper charts and Pentland Firth. The investigation concluded that
theshipwasequippedwithafullyfunctionalECDIS, severalfactorscouldhavecontributedtohisdecision:
but both means of navigation were used poor passage planning, inaccurate calculations, an
inappropriately for route planning and monitoring underestimation of the environmental conditions,
and positioning. Namely, ECDIS safety features and overconfidence in the vessels handling
tools were not set up or used although the officer of characteristics and his recent experience of a
the watch (OOW) was relying on it and the passage dangerous cargo shift while attempting to abort an
plan on the paper chart lacked detail. Furthermore, approach to the Firth in heavy seas. Fatigue or
fixing and chart work, conducted by the cadet, were tiredness were also identified as possible factors
substandard but remained unnoticed by OOW. influencing poor decision making as the master and
the chief officer worked a 6 hours on /6 hours off

watchkeeping routine in the 72hour period prior to eventually they will not provide important
the accident. Additionally, industry and commercial information or even use their knowledge.
pressures,evidentbychallengingcharterersplanning Concurrently,theymightstopaskingforinformation
schedule, managing companys inclination to from the crew members. Such situation, where
repeatedly request SOLAS exemptions and put attentiontothesafetyissuesdiminishes,mayleadto
Cemfjord to sea with substantial safety deficiencies accidents. Managers` participating in a
and Flag State administration`s noninformed communication skills training courses can help
decisionstoissueSOLASexemptions,incombination improvingsafetyculture.
with his personal determination to succeed probably
a reputation as a hardworking, confident,
experienced and competent person. On the other 4 CONCLUSIONS
hand, apart from the master, the crew members had
no previous experience of cement carrying vessels In the maritime transport seafarers are faced with
and six of them were serving onboard Cemfjord on notable hazards. Therefore it is important to address
their first contract, thus lacking experience and varies issues within maritime safety, one of them
competence to be fully aware of the situation and/or being safety culture. Studies show that despite
challengehisdecision.Theinvestigationalsorevealed substantial efforts at all levels there are still barriers
that another dimension of safety culture, learning andchallengestoapositivemaritimesafetyculture.
culture, was deficient: advices on passage planning,
weather avoidance, cargo management and stability The leadership characteristics and associated
arising from analysis of previous incident onboard behaviours of the masters influence safety culture
CemfjordinOctober2014wereissuedonlyinJanuary onboard ships. Therefore these issues should be
2015. addressed and emphasised during Bridge Resource
In July 2014 the rollon rolloff passenger ferry St technical skills that otherwise can contribute to
Helen suffered a mezzanine deck collapse when its accidents.
to excessive mechanical wear, corrosion and fatigue
that resulted from lack of service lubrication, long
standing maintenance failure (Marine Accident REFERENCES
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