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The proper performance of the duties of a tanker officer requires a thorough understanding of the basic principles of tanker operations and the ability to recall or refer to a large volume of detailed information. Much of this information is exclusively for the ship to which the officer is assigned, some of it refers to the harbours and docks visited. Much of the information is facts and figures used every day. Many of these tacts can be committed to memory. We all know one or more officers with a prodigious ability to recall names, facts and figures long past dimmed in our own minds. But how many officers could recall the maximum allowable electrical resistance of a 15-meter tank cleaning hose, the exact winter deadweight of the ship we are on. the VHF radio working frequency of the Rotterdam pilots and the % LFL that corresponds to the TLV for gasoline? These are all important facts for a chief officer to know and they can be conveniently retrieved if they have been recorded in a personal note binder.

1.6.1 Deck officer's personal note binder
For much of what a tanker officer routinely does, memory is OK. But memory is fallible. Where time is available, it is much better to check the facts. These 'facts' are found in a hundred publications which pass through the officer's hands in the course of his training and working years. It would be hard to carry all of these books along from ship to ship! A better way is to make a record of the important facts and figures as they are encountered and assemble these records in a way that permits quick location of the information needed. The best way to do this is for the officer to purchase a good, office-quality, loose leaf binder, along with a supply of reinforced lined paper, blank paper and tab dividers to organise the material.
One way to organise the officer's notebook is with alphabetical
dividers. The upper right corner of each page is labelled with the name of the information it contains. Information on a particular port would he filed under the port name. If the officer's ship makes three or four trips ro Texas City, he will soon have gathered all the necessary and useful information about the port, such as the maximum draft allowed in the Texas City channel, the dock salinity at high and low tides, range of the tide, best mooring plan for each berth, size of shore hoses for each berth visited, the VHF working channel of the pilots and marine operator and numbers of the charts required on board to avoid a US Coast Guard citation. The notebook should not contain information from official navigation publications which are updated through the 'Notices to mariners' system. Each entry must he dated, including the year.
Vital data on each tanker the officer is assigned to will take up one or two pages, with a hand drawn cargo system diagram, pump table, tank capacity table and manoeuvring diagram. The cargo piping system diagram should he drawn by hand as an aid to learning the system.
Basic navigation forms, tables of distances and a collection of conversion tables from a dozen sources can be included. As the entries accumulate, such a notebook becomes a valuable reference tor each bridge watch and when writing up a loading or discharging program.
Before photo-copy machines appeared on ships all of this information would have to he laboriously hand copied. With copiers, this job has become even easier and an officer has no excuse for being without a good personal binder. For a junior officer interested in advancement, it would do no harm for the master to notice a neatly compiled professional notebook on the chartroom table during his watch.

1.6.2 The deck notebook
Next to the professional binder, the next most useful book an officer can have is the deck notebook. The best kind of notebook for this is a land surveyor's field book. They cost several dollars, but the covers and pages are waterproof and the sewn binding won't fall apart after spending several weeks in a back pocket. Begin daily entries from the front of the book. Enter useful reference information in the back pages. For each voyage the tank cleaning plan, ballast plan, loading plan and discharging plan should be copied into the book. Used pages can be held against the front cover with an elastic band so that the book opens instantly to the current cargo plan page.

Deck officer's notebook entry for a clean product tanker discharge. The circled numbers show the order tanks will be discharged on each system.

Having this information always ready in his hand means that the officer does not need to leave the deck to refer to it. The events of the watch can be recorded in the notebook as they happen, making it easier to write a clean copy in the deck log after the watch. A hard pencil, (not pen), should be used for all entries. It doesn't run or smear. Entries in the notebook should be as neatly printed as the deck logbook entries; if there's an incident on the watch, the notebook may become evidence.
The pocket notebook is one of the places to gather useful information for later transcription to the officer's binder. The bulletin boards of dock offices are a good source of port information. While waiting to use the telephone, an officer can copy some of it into the deck notebook. It may make the next visit to that port much easier.

Entering information in the deck notebook that may seem unimportant at the time can suddenly become very useful, as the following officer's experience indicates:
"One night I was loading chemicals in Texas. As I started cargo in one of the smaller tanks I heard the dockman call the refinery control room on his radio: 'Dock three to C-7', he said 'start No.38 line'. I was holding my pocket notebook open at that moment to verify the kind of starting sample I was to take. I pulled out my pencil and wrote 'C-7/38' in the corner of the square that represented the cargo tank on my notebook cargo diagram. Based on previous loading rates, I expected that tank to take three hours to load. An hour later, I stopped by the tank to see how the cargo was doing. Unknown to me, they had installed a new pump to the refinery since the last time I had loaded that grade of chemical. The new pump was doing very well. In fact the cargo was exactly three centimetres from the deck. There was no time to call the dock and tell him the problem. By the time he checked which control room was pumping that grade of cargo it would be all over me and on its way into the harbour. I had my deck notebook open in my hand. My eye picked out the pencilled notation for the control room and line number, 'C-7/38', as I backed away from the tank top. I grabbed the microphone and trying to conceal the panic I felt called: 'ship to C-7, shut down 38 line!'. Fortunately, the operator in Control Room 7 didn't ask any questions about a strange voice telling him to shut down. The cargo stopped coming in one centimetre below the deck.
My neglect to check the tank earlier and to compute its filling rate after 20 or 30 minutes of loading, had nearly cost me a significant spill, probably my job and possibly my license. Only by making the small extra effort to write that note had I saved myself.
The corners are worn off that notebook now and it looks a little shabby on the shelf in my office. But I keep it there as a reminder of how one extra precaution can prevent a pollution incident, save a job and possibly save a career."
While on cargo watch, the officer in charge should record the tank levels in each cargo tank hourly. This includes checks of the cargo tanks which are not supposed to be receiving cargo!

1.6.3 Things change - check the information
'Half of life's troubles come from bad information', is a quote to remember before relying on information laboriously gathered into an officer's notebook. As the story above illustrates, things change. The information gathered in a personal notebook is 'uncontrolled'. It must always be secondary to 'controlled' information contained in official publications. Information gathered personally should be used as good advice and never trusted until confirmed by critical evaluation of the circumstances at the present time. The older the entry in the notebook, the less it can be trusted.

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