Situating meaning in accidents: a seafarer’s story

John W Soria

In March 2017, a young Filipino seafarer, John William Soria, suffered life-threatening injuries when he slipped and fell eight meters deep into a ship’s steel tank, lost consciousness and came close to experiencing death in an accident that would change his life forever. Five years later, I interviewed him to understand what meaning he makes […]

Archetypes of Safety Professionals

Some thoughts on creating a learning organisation Ronald: Captain we have an inspection today, the inspector will be arriving soon. Captain: OK, Ronald. Leave two fire extinguishers out in the alleyway, that will keep him busy. Ronald: Understood Captain. Later, an inspection is carried out, and true to the instinct of the captain, a non-conformance […]

Are safety reporting systems creating heroes and villains?

Can you relate with the two communication styles in the picture below? If not, do not waste your time reading this article. If you do, and you are wondering what’s wrong with it, let’s continue.   Over the years, a specific pattern of organisational communication has caught my attention – our tendency to explain away […]

Psychological safety or trust in competence: The Costa Concordia case

In March 2017, I travelled to Sorrento to meet with Francesco Schettino, the captain of the passenger ship Costa Concordia that capsized off the coast of Italy. I was plainly curious to understand his perspective about the accident. During our four days of interaction, I discovered that Francesco had a strong opinion about why people […]

The power of deep listening: a personal story

I am a brown-skinned man and I have spent most of my working life in the ‘civilized world’ world as an ethnic minority. Listening to other people’s perspectives, paying attention to their words and gestures, acknowledging their presence and needs, and being curious about what others have to say was not my usual reaction perhaps […]

Learning from what goes well: Another tactic to milk the cow?

In learning from everyday work, we need to first approach workers as human beings.Nippin Anand, a former Master Mariner, reminds us of the importance of understanding human needs before we can understand what’s working well. A few months ago, I visited a ship all excited to put my knowledge about ‘learning from what goes well’ […]

Should we hold the handrail? Risk and Safety in COVID times

“The greatest enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”  – J.F. Kennedy “OK, stay safe, look after yourself and as you go down, be careful, don’t touch the handrails.” Those were the words of a ship manager whom I […]

Conflicts within and without: Learning from the Costa Concordia case

When Costa Concordia sank, the Captain’s actions came under the spotlight. But what was the context of his decision to sail past Giglio island? Former Master Mariner Nippin Anand interviewed Captain Francesco Schettino and uncovered goal conflicts that are woven into the industry, and were not unique to that tragic day.

What failure has taught me

Let’s go back some 18 years in time. The local time was 03.10. I was standing my watch as a Second Officer on a large container vessel, bound for Irago Pilot Station in Japan in the next 90 minutes.

Adaptation at sea: Hindsight and foresight

It’s 4PM and a container ship is getting ready to depart from port. The crew has had a long day going through an intensive safety audit with a company superintendent onboard. Now the mate is dealing with last minute cargo manifests. Cargo lashing is still not completed by the shore gangs. The engineers are waiting […]

Turning apples into bananas: How big data undermines safety and what can be done about it?

An able seaman has been ‘reprimanded’ for leaving the gangway hanging out while the vessel was shifting berth. Root cause – ‘lack of awareness’; corrective action – ‘risk assessment’. A third officer has been served a warning letter for missing out on monthly checks on a fire extinguisher resulting in non-conformance during a safety audit. […]

Near miss reporting: A (mis)leading indicator of safety?

The captain is fuming. “You know someone left a paper in the photocopier and the next thing it is reported as a near miss. Can you believe this?” he annoyingly asks. “We must report 5 near misses on monthly basis”, he adds. Reporting near misses will improve safety is an unquestioned belief in many companies. […]