The Agent books the pilot for 4 hours after completion of the cargo operations since the small vessel is still waiting for one of the crew members that will join the ship and has not yet arrived at the airport.
When I finish unberthing the vessel the captain tells me that the crewmember that has just joined is the chief officer and his voyage from home to the ship took about 2 days, airport delays and visa problems included. He is obviously extremely tired, the captain tells me.
It is now 2300 when I disembark from the ship, the chief officer will be on watch one hour from now. No familiarization, no rest period, the ship being on a 6 hours watch...
I am scheduled to take one vessel out from the shipyard dock where she was drydocked for about one month with major repairs on the main engine.
As agreed between pilot, captain and dockmaster, the idea is to pull the vessel from the dock using tug and shipyard lines and then, when the stern is out, start the propeller and adjust the pitch settings (we have to do this out of the dock in order to avoid the propeller wash to move the blocks).
Things do not go as expected in the engine room, although the vessel has 3 or more technicians from the engine manufacturer on board to help. From the safety point of view there is no problem to keep the position since the weather is fine and I have one tug fast, one tug standing by and two shipyard lines still fast on the bow.
The captain starts receiving calls from the owner (I get to understand everything since the captain is from an ex-USSR country and the owners from a North European country so they speak in English). He is obviously being pressured to fix the problems and sail “asap”. The captain is trying to persuade the owners to go alongside an available berth to fully complete the adjustments. I don’t ear the other side but is clear that the owners are trying to cut the expenses by sailing immediately.
Although the captain is not very happy with the situation, after having the confirmation from the engine room that everything was fine, we let go the lines, make fast another tugboat (just in case), swing 180º and sail from the port.
45 minutes after disembarking I am called to bring the vessel inside again with the assistance of 2 tugboats as the engine is experiencing cooling problems that must be solved alongside. I bring the vessel inside and she only sails 24 hours later.
Two different stories with one common background – the complete disrespect of some shipowners for safety issues. In an era of seafarer criminalization where the master and senior officers are jailed first and asked questions after, it is time to start questioning if companies are truly fulfilling their obligations under ISM rules or we are still talking about paper work.
The weakest link will always be on board and that is why full support should be given to masters decisions and advices. In the ISM code is clearly stated that the master has overriding authority for safety matters but we all know that seldom a master will go against owners instructions, even if he is right…