Overworked crew key factor behind poor ship maintenance

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Around 13 per cent of maritime incidents are caused by poor maintenance, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

A key factor behind poor maintenance was that more than 20 per cent of seafarers reported working more than 69 hours per week with unpredictable working hours.

“Scarce resources mean people and organisations frequently have to make a trade-off between the time and effort taken to prepare for a task, and the time and effort expended doing it,” the bulletin reported.  “Trade-offs involving shortcuts may allow the ship to be operational more quickly, but at the expense of thoroughness and safety.”

Other factors cited were fatigue, poorly designed maintenance procedures, lack of crew training and maintenance falling between the crack during hand over from one crew to the next.

AMSA warned that maintenance was essential for vessel safety, its operations and crew

“It is a legal requirement to report any major critical equipment failure to AMSA, the bulletin also cautioned.

An incident alert followed by a detailed incident report must be provided  within 72 hours. AMSA cited 2,498 reported technical incidents reported in 2017 and 2,255 in 2018.

“Analysis of AMSA’s Port State Control data shows there were 896 maintenance-related deficiencies issued in 2017 and 708 in 2018. This represents 13 per cent of the total deficiencies during 2017–18,” the bulletin reported.

One example provided was the grounding of the tanker Desh Rakshak in January 2006 en route to the Port of Geelong with a pilot on board.

As the tanker neared the eastern end of the South Channel, the rudder failed to respond to helm inputs and remained at 5 degrees to port.

The steering was regained and attempts made to prevent the vessel from grounding without success, AMSA reported.

An investigation found the telemotor solenoid controlling the rudder’s movement to starboard had failed to respond.

The planned maintenance system did not include any maintenance schedules or requirements for the telemotor, the investigation found.

Meanwhile, the Seafarers International Research Centre at Cardiff University analysed 693 investigation reports published between 2002 and 2016 globally.  It identified that for lifeboat related incidents, the most common immediate cause was inappropriate or ineffective maintenance (26.1 per cent).