Tag Archive for: Marine Safety

While it’s not a question that most people have considered or even thought about it’s one that vessel owners and operators should. It’s not just vessel Master’s it should be considered for business managers as well.

But staying with the Master scenario what would your crew do if something happened to the Master?

Here’s a couple of examples to get you thinking…

  1. A deckhand on trawler with 2 deckhands onboard walked into the wheelhouse and found the Master lying unconscious on the wheelhouse deck. What should he do?

  1. A charter vessel was on a night time delivery voyage when the mate entered the wheelhouse to relive the Master who was not there. Where is the Master?


  1. Onboard a trawler that was working the Mate walked into the wheelhouse to advise it was time to winch up but there was no Master. What happened to the Master?

Do these examples sound strange, well it’s sad to say but all 3 are real life situations that actually occurred!

In scenario 1 the Master had suffered a heart attack (probably due to the crew) and while being attended to by the deckhands the vessel ran aground.

The Master in scenario 2 went into the engine room without letting anyone know (against the SMS procedures) and got his hand caught in machinery causing serious injuries

In the last example the Master simply fell overboard from the wheelhouse deck while checking the wires but fortunately was recovered a short time later.

What do these 3 examples tell you?

Very simply Masters are not bullet proof and therefore every SMS should have a procedure for dealing with an incapacitated Master.

Does your SMS have an Incapacitated Master procedure?

It’s a procedure we put in all SMS manuals we develop and one that’s actually saved lives!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend ensuring you have a procedure to deal with a Master that’s become incapacitated in any way. You need to take into account potential causes and how to deal with them in the event the Master becomes incapacitated for any reason.


My tip is to ensure you include the one thing I have NOT seen in every Incapacitated Master procedure I’ve reviewed and that is “what’s the boat doing and where is it”.

Those two things are what can save you from having 1 emergency situation to encountering multiple emergencies.

Note that while this article refers to a road vehicle it could have quite easily been a vessel!

A firm in Victoria has been convicted and fined $300,000 after a worker was permanently disabled in a gas bottle explosion.

The company pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court to failing to provide a work environment that was safe and without risks to health and failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

The court heard a company vehicle caught on fire when gas bottles containing acetylene and oxygen, which were being transported from a supplier, exploded in the vehicle’s fully enclosed toolbox.

The court also heard the two gas bottles had been placed unsecured and on their side as the ute’s enclosed canopy was too low to allow the worker to place them in an upright position.

This allowed acetylene vapour and air to mix and explode.

A witness to the incident said the fire damaged overhead powerlines and nearby cars, while other gas bottles in the ute also ignited.

About 12 people attended the scene and attempted to put the fire out and rescue the driver from the vehicle.

The worker requires a wheelchair and has memory loss as a result of multiple traumatic, physical and mental injuries.

The court heard the company failed to have a system of work in place for the transportation of gas bottles, including adequate ventilation and ensuring the bottles were properly secured and upright when moved.

Procedures for handling highly flammable chemicals like acetylene gas could not be left to chance, said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Julie Nielsen.

“A worker will be dealing with horrific physical and mental injuries from this incident for the rest of their lives,” Nielsen said.

“This incident should serve as a reminder to all employers, contractors and tradies that they need to ensure dangerous goods are handled with care.

“Where gas bottles are used as part of a business it is essential that employers put health and safety first, because the consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic.”

Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) bottles also present potential hazards as LPG is 1.5 – 2.0 times heavier than air.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Always ensure gas bottles are stored and/or transported in accordance with their Safety Data Sheet (SDS) at all times.

Secondly ensure there is appropriate ventilation to prevent gas build ups and the potential for an explosion.


Always have fire extinguishers on-site and available where acetylene, LPG and other gas bottles containing flammable gas are stored or used.

Acetylene cylinder general handling guidelines:

  1. Always use or have access to protective clothing and equipment
  2. Keep cylinders away from flammable substances
  3. Acetylene cylinders should always be stored upright with the valve in the upward position
  4. The cylinder should always be kept closed when not in use
  5. The cylinders need to be protected from potential mechanical and physical damages


Log Books

While not a log book as such a Fire Safety Manual is a requirement for a number of vessels including certain passenger vessels, vessels transporting dangerous goods and others. Shorlink can develop a Fire Safety Manual to suit your operations

I’m often asked who are deemed special staff and what functions do they undertake onboard?

Special Staff can be entertainers, café workers, bar staff of any other role onboard where they are actual crew members involved in vessel operations.

Although many Special Staff have specific roles in the event of an emergency where they may be involved in crowd control or other specific task not directly related to the vessel itself.

A key point is that ALL Special Staff personnel must be inducted onto the vessel even if they are not involved in any emergency response tasks.

Special Staff who work in galleys and/or café areas should have a basic understanding of how to deal with a fire in their area.

Fires need immediate attention and if your Special Staff have to wait for a deckhand to arrive the fire could be out of control by the time they arrive on the scene.

Other Special Staff can be valuable in providing crowd control leaving the vessels crew to deal with the emergency situation at hand.

It can be as simple as directing passengers to an Assembly Point, helping them don their lifejacket, conducting a head count or checking for injuries.

The more people trained in emergency response onboard your vessel the easier it is to deal with the situation at hand.

Having an emergency action plan that involves your Special Staff provides much greater protection for your passengers, crew and vessel in the event of an emergency situation. Some commercial vessels have cooks onboard and these should be included in emergency response procedures.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our recommendation is all Special Staff to have emergency response training relevant to their duties onboard.. All Special Staff should have basic fire response training in how to use a fire blanket and fire extinguishers.

In addition, they should all have basic training in crowd control measures, donning lifejackets and assembly station procedures.


One of the best tips we can offer is to have Special Staff who are regular workers onboard to have First Aid training.

This alone can free up crew members allowing them to concentrate on the situation at hand while knowing that First Aid is being provided by Special Staff.

Distress flares are a valuable safety item that can aid rescuers in locating you in the event of an emergency but…they can be extremely dangerous!

While flares are easy to use it’s important that you know how to use them properly and safely to ensure you don’t get injured. First, let’s look at the 3 types of flares used in maritime today.

Orange Smoke

When activated, they let off a cloud of orange smoke, which can’t be extinguished due to heavy rain or howling wind. These are good as a line-of-sight distress signal, but because there’s nothing burning (and so nothing glowing) they’re suited for daytime use only.

Red Handheld

These are effective as a line-of-sight distress signal by day and night. Red handheld flares are very bright with a good visibility range. They are very visible from an aircraft and will usually burn for up to 60 seconds.

Parachute or Rocket

These flares are capable of attracting attention in daylight for up to 10 miles depending on conditions and up to 40 miles at night. The rocket launches the flare up to a height of about 300 meters and the flare burns for 40-60 seconds as it slowly descends. Don’t use this type of flare when there is a helicopter or aircraft overhead.

Flare readiness

It’s important that you read and understand the activating instructions for your flares before you need to use them. Tying to read the instructions in an emergency situation when you’re under pressure and stressed can lead to serious injury or a failure to let the flare off when most needed.

  • Activating mechanisms vary so make sure that you read the instructions printed on the sides. It’s not the right time to learn how to use a flare when you’re in trouble on the water.
  • If you’re the Master it’s your responsibility to ensure all your crew know where they are stowed and how to use them.
  • As a crew member you should take responsibility and know where they are stowed and how to use them.
  • Always store flares in a waterproof container in an area that is easily accessible in the event of an emergency.
  • Remember, distress flares are not toys and should never be played or tampered with at any time.

Activating Distress Flares

You’re in an emergency situation and need to attract attention to help rescuers narrow down your position but…do not let off your flares until there is someone to see them.

  • Hold hand-held flares over the downwind side of the boat with your arm fully outstretched. Flares burn with extreme heat and can very easily damage your boat, your life raft or people.
  • Point them away from yourself, anyone else and the superstructure of the boat.
  • Flares are extremely bright and you should not look directly at the light as it will damage your eyesight.
  • Parachute flares should be fired downwind at ideally a 15 to 20 degree angle off vertical
  • If you’re in a life raft ensure they are activated outside of the raft and over the side.

Never set flares off unless you are in distress!


Disposal of “out of date” flares

Old or out of date flares should not be kept as spares, because the propellant degrades over time. While an expired flare may still fire, there’s no guarantee and…do you want a flare to fail when you really need it?  Every flare should have a date of manufacture and an expiry date.

Most VMR or Air Sea Rescue bases take old flares and many State maritime organisations such as Maritime Safety Queensland also take old flares.

Never put them in the rubbish or leave them outside for someone to collect as expired flares should be treated as explosives. In fact, expired flares come under the Explosives Act not any maritime act!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend undertaking one of our Distress Flare training sessions where every participant gets hands on experience in letting a flare off.

We include an introduction to flares and their use along with an outline of actual experiences in emergency situations. This is followed up with all participants activating a distress flare under the guidance of our highly experienced trainer. Contact our office for details on 07 4242 1412.


At all times when using distress flares keep hold of the handle only. Do not allow your fingers to move up on the flare as they generate high heat levels, especially red hand-held flares!

When using RFD red hand-held flares be aware that they have a tube that is pulled out of the holder and must be fully extended prior to activation. Ensure when you pull it out it actually locks in place otherwise it may slide back down into the holder and cause it to burn.

While conducting onboard training and auditing log books it’s become apparent that Master’s either don’t know what they are required to record in the deck log or simply just don’t care.

Marine Order 504 clearly specifies what must be recorded in your log book. Failing to record the required information may leave you exposed in the event of an incident.

Your vessels Log Book  is one of the first things an investigator will look at when investigating an incident.

If the required information is not in the log then you may have serious trouble defending yourself so make sure you record what’s required!

What MO 504 specifies as must be recorded?

The Master must ensure the following details are recorded in the vessels Log Book:

  1. Any illness or injury of persons onboard;
  2. Any marine incident, other incident or accident involving the vessel or its equipment;
  3. Any assistance rendered to another vessel;
  4. Any unusual occurrence or incident;
  5. All communications/messages sent or received for an emergency;
  6. Any operation of the vessel for recreational purposes.

What we recommend as additional information?

  1. Time of departure and arrival;
  2. Time of any passenger briefing where passengers are carried;
  3. New crew inductions and training;
  4. Time of induction of any other persons onboard. This may be contractors, technicians, observers or any other person;
  5. Proposed destination or course;
  6. Summary of weather conditions on departure;
  7. Position at regular intervals;
  8. Any major changes in weather conditions;
  9. Bunkering if not recorded elsewhere;
  10. Dispensing of medical supplies if not recorded elsewhere
  11. Ongoing emergency training;
  12. Any safety issues

While all this sounds like a lot of writing it only takes a few seconds once you get the hang of it.

By keeping a detailed Log Book, you are effectively providing a layer of protection for yourself when an incident occurs.

Many Masters say to me that they’re too busy to do this, but my response is a few seconds every couple of hours can save you days or even months in court defending yourself!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our primary recommendation is to ensure you record all of the requirements of MO 504 and we strongly recommend recording all new crew inductions, your position at regular intervals, any noticeable changes in weather and passenger inductions where applicable.

These few items are going to be a big help in the event of a marine incident and possibly time and money in legal costs.


Our number one recommendations is to get in the habit of keeping your Log Book up to date at all times because you never know when you may need it.

Log Books Deck Log Book

Vessel Log Books are a necessity but there are so many variations out there in size, format and levels of complexity. This is why we developed our Log Book in an easy-to-use format with only the necessary requirements to make recording your information easy. So many of our clients and non-clients have switched to our easy-to-use Log Book, why don’t you?



Recently a safety alert was issued highlighting the dangers of the incorrect use of soft slings when lifting loads.

The alert was issued following a number of incidents involving soft sling failures in workplaces, resulting in life-threatening injuries and serious near misses.

Incorrect use of soft slings (also known as synthetic fibre slings) can result in the sudden failure of a sling, even when the load being lifted is below the working load limit of the sling.

While soft slings are well suited to certain applications, the alert said they also have a number of limitations.

One of the most common causes of failure when using soft slings is lifting a load that has an edge with a small radius (sharp edge), rather than a rounded edge. An edge with a small radius can easily cut through a soft sling that is under load.

What may appear to be a blunt edge on a load may still be sharp enough to cut a soft sling when pressure is applied. The edge of a load only has to be relatively sharp when compared to the thickness of the soft sling in order for the sling to be cut.

Soft slings may also easily be cut by coming into contact with an obstruction while under load.

Soft slings are also more susceptible to damage than other sling types, which may cause them to fail below their working load limit. Soft slings can be damaged by poor storage and handling practices, dirt and grit in the synthetic fibres, prolonged exposure to UV light (sunlight) and exposure to chemicals, grease and oil or excessive heat.

The alert recommended a number of ways to control risks, and before lifting a load, a risk assessment should be conducted to decide the type of sling that is most suitable to lift the load safely.

Sling selection needs to take into consideration:

  • the nature of the load, including the potential for slings to be damaged by the load’s edges or surface
  • whether the load is to be lifted in a confined area and the potential for external obstructions to cause damage to the slings
  • the environment the slings are to be used in (e.g., heat, chemicals, dirt/dust)
  • the working load limit of the slings

Where a soft sling may come into contact with a relatively sharp edge of a load, appropriate cut-resistant material (for example a protective sleeve or pad) between the sling and the edges of the load should be used.

Soft slings should also be inspected prior to each use, and also undergo a thorough inspection at least every three months. Where slings are exposed to harsh operating or storage conditions, a more frequent inspection regime should be conducted. Inspections should be conducted by a competent person who is trained in the inspection of soft slings.

Soft slings should be stored in a clean and dry location away from direct sunlight and exposure to chemicals. They should be stored off the ground on a rack or stand.

Care should be taken not to drag them along the ground which can cause abrasive damage to the synthetic fibres.

When cleaning soft slings, the alert said to only use water or mild detergent and consult the manufacturer’s instructions.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Regular inspections are a must with soft slings, and they should be inspected prior to each use and undergo a thorough inspection at least every 3 months.

Where slings are exposed to harsh operating or storage conditions such as on commercial fishing operations a more frequent inspection regime should be conducted. Inspections should be conducted by a competent person who is trained in the inspection of soft slings.



Soft slings should be stored in a clean and dry location away from direct sunlight and exposure to chemicals. They should be stored off the ground on a rack or stand.

Care should be taken not to drag them along the ground which can cause abrasive damage to the synthetic fibres.

When cleaning soft slings, only use water or mild detergent and consult the manufacturer’s instructions. Never use harsh chemicals to clean a soft sling as this can cause damage to the synthetic fibres.