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Kevin Gilheany Military approach to seafaring


October 22, 2012

A new captain is hired for a new vessel and shortly after is asked what challenges he or she faces on the new vessel. What do you think the captain said?

I can’t imagine it would be “there’s not enough established doctrine or written procedures to follow.” Perhaps if ISM (international safety management code) had been implemented as intended (to minimize human error by following written procedures that represent best practices) he might have said such a thing. But that culture, to my knowledge, has not been established on the civilian side of seafaring. While working with companies to implement ISM and other safety management programs, I often use the example of how when serving on Coast Guard cutters there was a right way to do everything and it was written down in manuals. There were almost no checklists used because everything had to be learned, practiced, memorized and drilled. From this perspective, a real safety culture is one where the word “safety” is never mentioned. I can’t remember ever hearing it on any Coast Guard cutter. There was only the right way to do things.

In Dale DuPont’s interview on Workboat.comwith Lt. Cmdr. Craig Allen, commanding officer of the Coast Guard cutter William Flores, I was pleased to see that some things never change. When asked what challenges he faces on his new vessel, he says that their biggest hurdle is that there is not enough established doctrine or procedures to follow. That’s exactly what he said.

Lt. Cmdr. Allen explains that they will have to make them up from scratch based upon lessons learned and best practices. This is an example of what the Coast Guard’s safety culture looks like. The Coast Guard is not a top-notch organization by accident. How excellent is your operation? 

For more information, visit Maritime Compliance International


 

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