What makes a good marine inspector?
June 20, 2013
I have heard
many opinions from vessel operators on what makes a good Coast Guard marine
The majority say
that good inspectors apply common sense” in enforcing regulations, or that they
do not necessarily follow the book. I disagree.
The truth is,
enforcing prescriptive regulations has very little to do with applying common
sense. Enforcing performance- or management-based regulations is a different
story altogether, but we’ll save that for a later blog.
regulations seem to be drafted without “common sense,” the authority to waive
them is above an inspector’s pay grade. If an inspector is not knowledgeable of
the regulations they are charged with enforcing, or is not thorough or
consistent in enforcing them, the person is not doing anyone any favors.
tragedy reminds us of the important role of the government inspector. On June 5, a building collapsed in Philadelphia killing six people. According to news
reports, a city building inspector had been to the site on Feb. 12 and Feb. 25.
He returned to the site on May 14, responding to a citizen’s complaint about
the demolition project taking place on the building next door to the one that
collapsed. Reportedly, the inspector found the complaints unfounded. On June 12,
seven days after the deadly collapse, the inspector’s body was found in his
vehicle where he had died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Though
tragic, this event provides an opportunity to reflect on the essential role of
the government inspector.
inspectors, and civilians who intend to become third party surveyor and auditors
under Subchapter M, should read Edward T. O’Donnell’s excellent book, “Ship Ablaze.” The book tells the account of the Steamboat
General Slocum, which caught fire in the East River on June 15, 1904. It
resulted in the loss of over 1,000 men, women and children. The vessel had been
inspected and certified as seaworthy only six weeks before the fire by
Inspector Henry Lundberg of the U.S. Steamboat Inspection Service (an agency that
was later incorporated into the U.S. Coast Guard).
investigation, it was determined that much of the fire fighting and lifesaving
equipment on board was inadequate, and it was reported that fire drills were
not conducted. Inspector Lundberg was convicted of criminal negligence for his
failure to enforce federal regulations. The captain of the General Slocum was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years
hard labor in Sing Sing prison.
regulatory inspector is a serious and noble profession, and one that should not
be taken lightly. Coast Guard marine inspectors are highly trained
professionals with extensive on-the-job and classroom training.
inspector, or a third party acting as one, is one who is extremely
knowledgeable, thorough, and consistent. Companies fortunate enough to get a
good inspector should consider themselves well served.