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Why is thorough Crew Training so important?

st john sealogs



It was the end of a long-hot week. We were coming into the wharf...

Does this sound like a dramatic start to a story? well, let me continue.
We had just disembarked all our passengers after spending a lovely afternoon out on the water, showing our new tourist-friends around our beautiful area, and the last task for the day was to wash the vessel down with fresh water. Rope in hand, I threw it to Holly but she missed, “don’t worry” I said, “I’ll try that again''. My second attempt was more accurate and with her arm outstretched she grabbed the rope with her hand. Just as she clasped the 14mm white rope in her palm, the side of the boat got tossed against the wharf in the surging swell...trapping her hand and breaking her finger. 

The high-pitched shriek she made will haunt me forever! Here was my best friend, the person who had taught me how to throw the rope on this very same boat, bleeding and in tremendous pain. 

I raced to the fridge and grabbing the first cold thing I saw - a can of diet coke - that will do! As Holly held onto the can the best she could, I called for help and wrapped her hand in a cold wet towel. 

The Skipper hurried down from the helm station to see what was going on, trouble was, we only had one rope securing the boat to the wharf at this point. We elevated Holly’s arm and sat her down. The Skipper rushed back to his chair, repositioned the vessel and I ran to the side of the boat, this time managed to quickly fasten the back rope onto an old bollard on the wharf. Then I ran back to Holly. It was all go! 

Next was getting Holly off the boat. The boat continued to buck about in the swell and helping her climb one-handed up the vertical ladder was no easy feat. As she cradled her arm, we walked slowly up to the office where there was a car waiting and raced off to the hospital. ‘Forget work’ I thought, this was more important…

Thankfully, because this event happened outside of operating hours, our passengers weren’t affected. Had this happened earlier in the day, however, it would have been another story. 

Short Staffed = cruise cancellation = disgruntled passengers having to reschedule or cancel. Cancellations = full refunds given = lost company revenue. Office resources stretched and needless to say, the management would not have been happy! 

Despite the seriousness of the situation, fortunately for the business, and my own job security, this event took place at the end of the day and didn’t cause too much chaos within the company. 


So How Did This Happen? 

When you dig below the surface of any incident or accident, you will find that these events don’t just happen, instead, they are caused - meaning that several key factors compound together and unfortunately often do result in harm to a human being. 

You can analyse what these factors are until the cows come home, you can even segment these into ‘social, physical, environmental and behavioural’ groupings. 

In the situation above, you could say the reasoning behind this accident was simply a mixture of all 4 factors below: 

  • Social - it was summer, each night different activities were happening, from BBQ’s, evenings catching up with friends, after work swimming missions, Parties…there was something about the warmer weather that meant we were later to bed than normal. 
  • Physical - hot, long, often wind-burnt days on the water, combined with late nights and often poor diets, meant that we were surviving alright, just not at 110% efficiency. We were tired, but we kept on going, after all, it was summer!
  • Environmental - let's break this into 2 sections:
    • 1. Company - Crew Training, we did have thorough training. There were times that the frequency of this training was sporadic due to the busy nature of the operation, and there was a Vessel Manual which you were responsible for familiarising yourself with. 
    • 2. Weather - very few times in a summer season do we see the wind and swell approaching the Bay from the angle it was that day. It happens on occasion but not often. The tide was high at the time as well, this meant that we had to virtually lie on the deck of the boat to throw the rope around the pole and under the wharf above, having to reach right out to gain as much leverage on the throw as we could. 
  • Behavioural - we had a lot of fun at work, everyone who worked for the company was great friends! We didn’t take life too seriously. We were disciplined to some degree, but we would talk a lot. We would have a lot to catch up on since the previous evening's events. The majority of our crew were young (me included) and didn’t fully understand the implications of our actions, likewise the importance of Training and Hazard management.  


The Importance of Regular Training, Done Right. 

Now we know that both the Company plus the Master have equally shared responsibility in keeping the Crew members trained to an adequate level, but my thinking is that when you’re out on the water, you can never know too much! 

On reflection, there were several contributing factors that all played a part in the accident. 

It’s important that during those long hot busy summer days, that Crew training is being regularly scheduled on the roster and properly-being carried out. Regularly repeating and discussing your findings from drill training and emergency procedures will ensure that not only will your Crew become familiar with what to do, but if by chance something unusual did happen, your Crew will jump into action immediately and know precisely how to handle the situation. 


At SeaLogs, we’re big advocates of regular, ongoing and diverse Crew training, and we’ve created you a Crew Training module to capture all of the details you would normally record in your logbook: 

- The Trainers name

- Type of Training conducted (it includes a list of Emergency Procedures, Drills, Inductions and other training types, working alongside your Vessel Manual) and you can customise this list of training types to suit your needs! 

- Details of the Training

- Plus a list of Crew members who took part in the training. 

This is not only easy to use, but the training also gets captured in as part of your logbook, can be reported on providing you with a birds-eye-view as to who is doing what on which vessels. You can even set up regular training reminders and notifications, never missing a training session.


Our brave Holly ended up requiring stitches in her finger, and her hand was put in a cast and she was off from work for the following 6 weeks. 

This event, if anything, taught us both a great lesson. Not only did we start to think proactively about crew training, safety, and taking things more seriously. Holly and I continued working together on the water. We both gained our Master's tickets and worked together in Australia. During one hot 40-degree day, with 126 passengers onboard, Holly got locked in the toilet for well... let’s just say longer then it would take to read the Professional Skippers Magazine... but that is another story! 

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