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Given a reasonable amount of cooperation and good leadership, language difficulties within a crew can usually be worked around. Where a level of language difficulty persists it is of great importance that adequate training and drills be conducted so that the crew understands what is expected of them in emergency situations as well as routine work. If the crew cannot be verbally directed in the event of an emergency, then they must know what is expected through training and drills so that it will be done without direction.

1.13.1 Ship-shore difficulties

Ship and shore must have common-language capability before transferring oil.

Where difficulties arise between the ship's crew and shore terminal personnel, or between a larger ship and a lightering vessel, immediate measures must be taken. In accordance with section 4.5 of the International safety guide for oil tankers and terminals "a person with adequate technical and operational knowledge and sufficient command of a language understood by both ship and shore personnel" can be appointed as an interpreter. Alternatively, the ship's watches may be rearranged so that each watch includes a crew member who can speak the language of the shore terminal.
In no case should cargo operations commence until effective communications have been arranged.
Where foreign officers are employed on a company ship, it is useful, perhaps essential, that one of the technical managers of the shore operations department be fluent in the native tongue of the master and senior officers. Many important operational matters are now resolved by satellite telephone calls where fluency in a common language is essential to a successful outcome.

1.13.2 Ship-to-ship communications
In 1973 the IMO Maritime Safety Committee agreed that English should be used as a common language for navigation. The IMO Standard marine navigational vocabulary was adopted in 1977 and amended in 1983 and 1985. The ability to use this vocabulary is a requirement of the STCW convention of 1978.
The two most important aspects of the Standard marine navigational vocabulary are that non-English speaking officers must understand enough English to efficiently use the vocabulary. For English speaking officers it is equally important that they learn the procedures and format for using the vocabulary. The format is structured and the normal exchanges use few words. Adding words which are not in the IMO vocabulary will only confuse the non-English speaking navigators on the other vessel.
The IMO vocabulary includes standard language usage for engine and rudder orders while under pilotage. The master must ensure that these are fully understood by all of the wheelsmen who will steer with pilots embarked.
Audio cassette training programs are available for learning the IMO Standard marine navigational vocabulary.

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