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Few things are more important to the continuity of a tanker's operations and maintenance programs than a complete set of accurate records. On a modern ship, payroll, overtime, maintenance, inventory and requisition records are all maintained on a computer. If it is well designed, the modern computer system leads even the most computer-illiterate officer through a menu selection system which makes the necessary entries both sailor-proof and quick. Modern software eliminates mathematical work and errors - it is only necessary to make the entries correctly. Each of the company's reports can be programmed for 'step through' entry, followed by printing of a perfect copy or direct transmission by modem to company headquarters. Any new computer version should use the forms of the existing reporting system. It should be carefully tested by management prior to implementation. After the initial version has been in use for a time, crew recommendations should be sought and used for making improvements.
'Package' ship records systems are available. They avoid the costs of custom programming, but any off-the-shelf program should be fully reviewed by the crew before it is purchased for their use. Some of the programs are easy to use, while others are so 'user-hostile' that the crew would be better off with an old, bound-journal system. A well-designed shipboard computer system will have password protection for the various files and programs so that only authorised users (master, chief officer, chief and first assistant engineers) can access or edit critical data.
Whether the ship's record keeping system is manual or computer based, each officer must continue to conscientiously maintain it. This is particularly true in the case of 'relief officers replacing a 'permanent' crew member. When the regular officer returns, he will be delighted to find that his records and files are up to date. If they are not, he is sure to make some bitter comment to the master before or after the relieving officer's departure!
Every document included in the ship's records must be dated (including the year!), and include the legibly printed name and signature of the person who made the entry or completed the report. Professionals are proud of their work and like others to know who did it. They sign their logs and reports in a way that leaves no doubt about who did the good work that was recorded there.
Some of the more important records are:

  • Crew training.

  • Payroll and overtime.

  • Cargo orders.

  • Voyage records.

  • Cargo system tests.

  • Oil record book.

  • Deck and engineer logs.

  • Safety inspections, meetings and drills.

  • Preventive maintenance.

  • Classification society inspections.

  • Loading and discharge records.

  • Cargo tank cleaning.

  • Shipyard repairs.

  • Accident/incident reports.

  • Port state inspections.
  • 1.5.1 Crew training records
    At a time when qualified and experienced crews are becoming more difficult to assemble, maintaining an active training program is the only way an owner can insure that his personnel know their jobs. Records are essential to insure that each employee completes all required training and that training progress is documented. These records can have additional value in helping to defend the owner against injury and pollution claims. They demonstrate that the seamen were given the training necessary to recognise and avoid the hazards of their employment and that a conscientious program of anti-pollution indoctrination was followed.
    On the day they first report aboard a new ship, crew members should be given a familiarisation tour of their workplace and emergency duty stations. This will be entered on their record. The crew member should initial or sign the entry for his indoctrination tour and for each training session completed while on board. The report sheet should be sent to the office when the crew member leaves and forwarded to the next ship he rejoins. Vessel training records should be reviewed by the personnel director to determine the kind of training needed on board. They should be retained as proof of training conducted.

    An individual crew training record. The crew member's signature proves that training was received.

    1.5.2 Preventive maintenance records
    Conscientious owners appreciate the value of programmed maintenance. Over the long run, it preserves both earnings and the resale value of their ship. Such programs are entirely dependant on accurate record keeping. Each cycle of a system's maintenance should be completed on time and all completed work must be recorded. When the completed work has been entered in the computer program, the computer will be able to determine when the task is due to be repeated. Vessels which are on a classification society continuous machinery inspection program depend on accurate and complete records to maintain inspection exemptions, else costly 'open and inspect' requirements may be imposed.
    If an officer joins a ship which does not have a maintenance logbook for his collateral duties, he should start one. Even if he is a third officer in charge of only the bridge navigation equipment, flags, and lifeboat inspections, he should have a small journal to record inventories, inspections completed and repairs/exchanges made. With even a basic record system, the job will be done better and it is good practice for other duties as the officer advances in rank.
    With a complete lifeboat inspection record in his journal, a young third officer will not need to freeze in the lifeboats if the chief officer asks for an inventory of the expiry dates of all the lifeboat stores when the ship is a day from arrival in Montreal in December!
    Two of the chief officer's important maintenance records are the maintenance logbook and the individual equipment records. The chief officer records all work completed by the Deck department in his maintenance logbook each day. At a later date (see section 4.6), this log is reviewed and the specific equipment journals (hand written or computer) are brought up to date. If the individual equipment records are kept as file folders, the files should be arranged according to the company file code system, or genetically (military style). If the ballast pump is a 'Watrous' design do not file its records under 'W'. File them under 'Pump, Ballast, Maintenance'. Clearly label each file and use a suspension-type file system.

    1.5.3 Safety records
    The position of ship's safety officer should be rotated among the deck and engine officers. Each in turn is required to complete and record the necessary routine inspections and to audit the other department for proper safety practices. Records of all safety meetings, inspections and safety equipment are maintained. The safety officer should schedule (or follow the company schedule for), the emergency drills and safety training program.
    The safety records demonstrate that the latest safety advice, casualty reports and instructions have been properly disseminated to the crew, who are the end users of this important information.

    1.5.4 Overtime records
    Overtime records are essential to support charterer's invoices, proper payroll administration and for reference in preparing future budgets.
    In the event of a casualty, investigating authorities may examine these records to evaluate the contribution of crew fatigue to the accident.

    1.5.5 Cargo records
    Few areas of a tanker's operations result in more claims than the handling of the cargo. A tanker cannot hope to prove 'proper care' of a petroleum cargo unless full and complete records are available for presentation. Cargo records which may become important to a cargo claim inquiry include:


  • Charterer's loading orders.

  • Tank washing, cleaning and preparation programs; slops recovered.

  • Ballast plan.

  • Tank inspection certificates.

  • Chief officer's loading instructions.

  • Declaration of inspection prior to cargo transfer.

  • Ship's ullage sheets and loading quantity calculation.

  • Shore tank ullage sheets and quantity calculation.

  • Cargo analysis report/quality certificates.

  • Ship's deck and engine, rough and smooth logs and port log.

  • Cargo manifest/bill of lading copy.

  • Cargo heating instructions and heating records.

  • Oil record book.

  • Slop/sediment declared at loading port.

  • Slop disposal certificate.

  • Fuel loaded documents.

  • Arrival and departure reports.

  • Dead-freight or short lifting calculations.

  • Notes of protest

  • Discharging
  • Ship's arrival ullage report.

  • Charterer's discharge instructions.

  • Chief officer's discharging instructions and logs.

  • Cargo pump operations record/log.

  • Ship's port log sheet.

  • Ship's tank inspection certificate.

  • Shore tank ullage sheet and quantity calculation.

  • Cargo exception reports.

  • Chief officer's ballasting instructions.

  • Notes of protest.

  • Check lists used for the efficient performance of cargo operations should be retained as an important part of the cargo and voyage files.
    Cargo forms for the previous six cargoes must be readily available. Two copies of each form and report should be maintained. One copy is part of a consolidated cargo file for that cargo, filed as a group by voyage number.
    The second copies are kept in files or ring binders by report type. This makes it easy for the chief officer to refer to past records when preparing orders without disturbing the consolidated cargo file packages. Cargo records must be sufficiently detailed to be useful to a claims investigator. Port logs must show the sequence in which each cargo tank was loaded/discharged, including the times of commence and finish loading/discharging each tank/product. Also indicate into which cargo tank(s) the contents of the cargo lines were dropped at the start and finish of loading or discharging and whether such dropping occurred prior to or after gauging ROB.
    Other records which may be requested include:
  • Summary of ports of call, including dates.

  • Letters of discrepancy for all voyages undertaken.

  • Superintendent reports.

  • Engine sea trial book.

  • Heating balance diagram.

  • Date last drydock, hull cleaning, leadline, US coast guard inspections.

  • Maker and type of anti-fouling paint in use.

  • Crew lists (all voyages) including home addresses and telephone numbers.

  • Leaks in cargo tanks or piping systems, dates detected, causes, repairs made, repair test records and class inspection dates.
  • 1.5.6 Inspection records
    Most inspection records become part of the preventive maintenance or safety record files. Those which do not should be filed separately according to the equipment or system inspected, or with the classification records as appropriate.

    1.5.7 Cargo tank records
    Records of cargo tank crude oil washing, cleaning, maintenance, repair and modifications are important to proper cargo operations. These records should be filed by tank, so that the history of any tank can be determined from a single file.

    1.5.8 Cargo system records
    Pressure tests of cargo piping and leak tests on valves, replacement/ repair of pipe sections, valves or pumps, records of ultrasonic thickness surveys and placement of temporary repairs should be included in these document files. Temporary repairs must be permanently corrected at the very first opportunity. Failure to do so will expose the vessel to charges of 'unseaworthiness with respect to cargo' if a cargo contamination should occur.

    1.5.9 Shipyard records
    Shipyard records are important for review in the event a repair fails, or when preparing for the next repair period. They are also necessary sources of information for correcting the ship's stability booklet. A separate summary of significant weights added to or removed from the ship, along with the location should be maintained. This can be compiled from the shipyard record after repairs are complete.

    1.5.10 Oil record book
    One of the more important record books is the tanker's Official oil record book. These records are required by Regulation 20 of MARPOL 73/78 and must be maintained in a form (and usually in a book) supplied by the flag state authority. On 4 April 1993, the oil record book form required by Appendix III of MARPOL 73/78 (1991 Consolidated edition), became effective.
    Entries are made by the chief officer according to the instructions. Each page is signed by the master (see section 2.13.2).

    1.5.11 Orders
    The written orders prepared by the master, chief officer and chief engineer must be retained on board as part of the ship's permanent records.

    1.5.12 Accident/incident reports
    The company may have a special accident/incident report form. If not, it is important that notices of accidents or incidents contain at least the following information:

  • Name of the vessel.

  • Time and date of the incident.

  • Personnel involved, their crew position, years of service.

  • Person in charge of the operation.

  • Location of the incident on board.

  • Weather and other influencing factors (noise, lighting, footing, etc.)

  • Personnel injuries.

  • Damages which occurred, or which might have occurred due to near miss.

  • Estimated cost of damage and loss.

  • Possibility of reoccurrence if nothing is done.

  • Recommended actions to prevent reoccurrence.

  • Loading port and date of loading.

  • Discharge port and date.

  • Quantity and type of cargo.

  • Nature and extent of damage.

  • Total number and reference numbers of Bills of Lading.
  • 1.5.13 Records retention
    Each vessel owner should have a records retention and disposition program for his ships. This program will indicate which records must be maintained in file form, how long they are to be retained on board the ship and how they should be disposed of (transferred to the Home Office or destroyed), at the end of that time.

    1.5.14 Logbooks
    The logbook is the official record of the ship. In it should be recorded a detailed record of the activities of the ship and her crew. Each significant point during a voyage and each operational change while in port should be clearly entered. Logbook entries should be concisely detailed, that is, all important information should be recorded by brief notations. As an example, the entry '14.38 - began loading cargo' is concise, but lacks essential details. In a later, investigation of this cargo operation, this logbook entry would provide no information regarding the way in which cargo was loaded, or what happened to the No.2 oil later found to be off-test. The entry '14.38 -began loading No.2 oil into tanks Nos. 3 across, 4 wings and 5 centre, via No.2 line and deck drop' provides all essential information to determine how the No.2 oil was loaded into the ship. Each step of the cargo operation should be recorded, from all fast on arrival through last line aboard on departure.
    Logbook entries must be clearly printed, in neat, hand printing. The watch officer should sign the last entry of his watch with a legible signature. The style of logbook entries may vary from ship to ship. For the new officer, a cursory examination of the previous voyage and port entries will indicate what the accepted practice is on the ship. All logbook entries must be true and correct to the best of the understanding of the officer making the entry. If there has been an unusual event on the watch, the officer may first draft his logbook entry in rough and review it with the master before making the entry in the logbook.
    No erasures arc permitted. An error should be ruled through with a single line, initialled and then then correct entry made immediately after. The master may make navigation entries, or entries regarding the crew as necessary, or may instruct the watch officer to do so. The chief officer may make entries regarding cargo operations, or instruct the officer to do so. If there is any controversy regarding a logbook entry, the entry should be made and signed by the officer who wishes the entry to be made.

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