Engine Room: How To Communicate Properly During An Emergency


As Simon Rapley, Divisional Director, Britannia Club, notes, emergency response on board vessels is normally comprehensively covered by the Emergency Guidance Manual. However, often a very important interface is overlooked and that is the interaction between the bridge and engine room teams.

According to Mr. Rapley, in many cases the incident may not be a single event and, for example, a collision may also lead to subsequent pollution, or a fire may involve injuries and fatalities.

Life, Environment, Property

Three priorities must be considered when dealing with an incident and these will be drivers for the flow of information between the bridge and engine room teams and vice versa:

  • Life: This is your first priority, as it cannot be replaced.
  • Environment: This is your second priority, as usually pollution incidents can be rectified with time and expenditure.
  • Property: Your ship, cargo and third party assets can always be replaced and hence why these are priority number three.

Timely communication

Mr. Rapley also highlights the importance for operators to consider that when one team, be it the bridge or engine room, is principally dealing with an incident, they will be busy and repeated calls from the other team asking for updates may well be unhelpful and a hindrance.

Therefore, you should ensure that all communications are measured, necessary and proportionate, while also considering that a deterioration in the situation will need to be promptly promulgated to all parties.

In fact, Britannia Club explains that often one party will call the other and upon not receiving an answer, will repeatedly call in quick succession. However, it may well be that the other team are aware of a call, but they are just not in a position to answer at that time, and repeated calls can become an unwelcome distraction.

Testing and training

The means of communication between the bridge, engine control room, engine side and steering flat are crucial. While, telephones are the principal means of communication, secondary and other back-up means of communication will require periodic testing and should be included within the vessel’s Planned Maintenance System (PMS).

A worthwhile exercise, if not undertaken already, is to test any handheld walkie talkie system, be this VHF or UHF, to determine where any “dead-spots” may exist within the machinery spaces, which could hinder communications with the bridge team in an emergency situation

Mr. Rapley states, explaining that “to be aware of any areas of very poor, or no radio communication signal, in advance makes dealing with the issue, at a time of high stress, slightly more manageable.”

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Source: Britania P&I Club


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