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March 10, 2004

UK union calls for crew number rethink

British marine officers' union NUMAST is urging the U.K. authorities to rethink the rules covering crew numbers in the light of the new security-related duties being imposed on masters and officers.

The union says effective implementation and enforcement of the ISPS (International Ship and Port facilities Code) will not be possible without adequate shipboard staffing resources.

General secretary Brian Orrell said NUMAST has raised the issues at the British government's shipping task force and questioned whether the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has given any additional consideration to safe manning certification in response to the requirement for ship security officers (SSOs).

The ISPS Code requires the SSO to administer and supervise a ship's security plan and to be trained to carry out a number of duties laid out in Part A and B of the Code. These duties include:

  • conducting regular security inspections and audits

  • testing and operating security equipment

  • crew training and drills

  • coordinating onboard security of stores, cargo and passengers

The SSO is also required to enhance onboard security awareness and to report all security incidents, non-conformities and deficiencies to the company security officer.

NUMAST is concerned that the position of SSO is being filled by already over-worked officers--often the master or chief officer --rather than by new staff.

"These are important responsibilities with considerable implications for the workload of those appointed to the position and we have great concern that it will be the straw that breaks the camel's back for many members in terms of pressure," Orrell said.

"'We believe it is important that the MCA works towards the safe manning of a ship that is based of a full assessment of the post of SSO," he added.

Orrell said it was clear that many companies had given little consideration to the appointment of SSOs and the implications of the duties associated with the position.

Further talks on the issue are due to take place at the shipping task force this month, says the union.

Issues of crew manning and endurance and the crew's new security responsibilities will be covered extensively at next month's Marine Log conference MARITIME OPERATIONS: HUMAN FACTORS

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