1.2 SPECIAL DUTIES OF THE CHIEF OFFICER
The chief officer is required to demonstrate a higher level of training,
experience and competence than the junior deck officers. The examination
requirements for the license are more numerous and detailed and the
list of duties which his added knowledge must address is considerably
longer. Some have described the job as a purgatory to be endured in
order to merit the paradise of command at some future time. For the
professional officer who is dedicated to his job, this should not be
the case. It can be a time of strong professional development and great
personal satisfaction. But the chief officer can certainly count on
getting less sleep than he did as a second or third officer!
1.2.1 Cargo duties
The most demanding responsibility of the chief officer is oversight
of all cargo operations. This includes cargo planning, tank preparation,
loading, care, discharging, measurement, sampling and reporting responsibilities.
Plans prepared for loading cargo are reviewed with the master to insure
fullest compliance with company policies and best use of the particular
arrangements of the ship's tanks, pumps and pipelines. Tank preparation
procedures should be carefully planned with the help of the pumpman.
The pumpman will, in many cases, have more experience on the ship than
the chief officer. Full, written instructions for all loading, discharging
and sampling operations must be prepared and carefully discussed with
the junior officers. As each junior officer assumes his cargo watch,
he should be closely questioned by the chief officer to verify that
he fully understands what is required of him for the next four to six
hours. Of course, the most important thing that is required of any junior
officer is that he calls the chief officer whenever he is in doubt!
Despite the assistance available to him in each area of his duties,
the chief officer remains the person responsible for the safe carriage
of the cargo. He must develop the ability to know when and where his
personal attention is needed to ensure safe cargo operations, so that
he is both available when needed and sufficiently rested throughout.
With some product values as high as $10 per US gallon, this is a considerable
burden. In most cases, it means that the chief officer must remain on
board throughout the loading or discharging operation. If he needs to
go ashore during any cargo operation, the chief officer must advise
the master of his intentions and ensure that the master will remain
on board until he returns.
Part of the cargo responsibilities of the chief officer is maintenance
of the ship's cargo tanks, piping and pumps. This is principally an
inspection requirement, since the deck department has limited resources
to repair any significant defects noted. Working closely with the chief
engineer, the chief officer insures that regular inspections of cargo
tank structure, coatings and cleanliness are made. He is responsible
for inspecting/testing tanks and all associated piping for leaks. When
defects are discovered, temporary corrective measures (clamping/patching)
are taken and a defect report is sent to the owner's technical manager
requesting early permanent repair.
Coatings maintenance of the hull and much of the deck equipment is supervised
by the chief officer. His objectives in this area are to insure that
the work is done safely and that the results are durable. Proper de-scaling
and re-coating procedures, completed in accordance with the owner's
paint schedule, insures that the ship's structure is properly protected
against corrosion and that the owner gets full value for the money paid
for this work. Improperly conducted coating maintenance, which produces
only a temporary cosmetic improvement (painting over rust or improperly
prepared surfaces), is the same as throwing the owner's paint overboard.
Cosmetic paint applications conceal defects and create unsafe working
conditions, as seen by lost ship bows, lost side plating, etc., in the
most notorious cases.
Coatings maintenance is an activity where quality of work is more important
than quantity of square footage covered. Quantity is maximised by careful
planning of the maintenance program and care of the maintenance equipment.
Maintenance performed is recorded in the deck logbook and in the deck
maintenance book or computer record.
The chief officer shares responsibility for the safe navigation of the
ship when standing a navigation watch underway. Because of his experience
and as part of his development, he may be asked by the master to participate
in the voyage planning. In many cases he is assigned to the 4 to 8 watch,
on which celestial navigation should continue to be practiced as part
of the navigator's art. Since he follows another officer on the navigation
watch, he should review and advise that officer concerning navigation
practices and may find it necessary to bring to the attention of the
master any significant errors or omissions which he believes would endanger
the safety of the vessel.
Because of his many other duties and perhaps because of the familiarity
of long experience, the chief officer may be tempted to take a casual
attitude toward his navigation duties. This should never be the case.
The 4 to 8 watch is not a time to catch up on deck department paperwork.
No single cause of ship collisions and groundings exceeds in frequency
that of failing to maintain a proper all-around lookout. A lookout cannot
be properly maintained while the watch officer's nose is buried in the
deck department overtime file. This should also be a caution to shipowners
who are tempted to require yet another report from the chief officer
in the hope of further cost reductions. If he spends part of his navigation
watch completing the new report, the result of not keeping a proper
lookout may be an accident which exceeds in cost any savings the report
would have produced for the next hundred years!
Every intelligent manager of a company's resources seeks areas of effort
and time that will produce the greatest result for his employers. Considering
that between 70% and 80% of tanker incidents, accidents and casualties
are due to human error, it would seem that the area where a chief officer
can have the greatest effect on the safety and productivity of his ship
is by improving the competence of the crew. In 1978 the Netherlands
Maritime Institute published a report on Sub standard tankers(1). Section
seven of that report compared the yearly casualties of a 37-ship independently-owned
fleet with that of an oil company fleet of the same size. The thirty-seven
independently owned ships experienced 29 days lost time each per year,
compared with a combined total of twenty days lost for all of the oil
company ships. Considering that most of the independently owned vessels
lost time was spent either under tow or undergoing repairs as a result
of human error, it is hard to imagine that their owners would not consider
making a significant investment in training.
Every accident or incident is an opportunity to improve the safety of
the ship. Each incident provides a lesson to be learned, rather than
a reason for discipline (though disciplinary action may be necessary).
Accidents and incidents should be reviewed by management with the crew,
seeking their suggestions for operational improvement. If appropriate,
the persons involved in an incident should be part of the investigation
It is the duty of every chief officer to develop a crew which performs
to their best ability through an established training program and effective
leadership. Likewise, it is the duty of every ship owner/manager to
insure that the ship's officers have available effective training materials
and training aids to achieve this. Additional information on training
is provided in section 4.14.
1.2.5 Pollution prevention
The chief officer's cargo duties make him a lead performer in reducing
the vessel's environmental impact. Carelessness or neglect of proper
tank washing procedures can lose half of the ship's clingage to the
sea. This could be 400 tonnes of oil on a 200,000 DWT tanker. This oil
will blanket the sea surface, interfering with oxygen exchange, the
growth of marine life and recreational uses. Oil's toxic constituents
can get into the food chain with unforeseen results. It is up to the
chief officer to prevent unnecessary operational pollution.
(1) van Poelgeest, FM, Sub standard tankers, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Maritime Institute, R 70, February 1978.