1.6 THE DECK OFFICER'S NOTE BINDER AND DECK BOOK
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
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
"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.