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. […]

Personal protective equipment: Managing safety or exercising control?

Sir’, he said in a pale voice. ‘It was 59 degrees in the engine room that afternoon and I took my helmet off. Not for too long, sir, just a few minutes. I was standing under the blower to cool my head. And then this safety of­ficer comes to me and starts shouting. “Why are […]

Thirty years on: In search of broken components

Introducing barriers has become a standard way of managing risk and safety – but it is not necessarily the best one On 6 March 1987, the passenger ferry Herald of Free Enterprise capsized on departure from Zeebrugge, resulting in the death of 193 passengers and crew. It was considered one of the most severe accidents […]

Imaginary checklists and defensive procedures: When safety tools serve another purpose

Questions about procedures, checklists, their adequacy and effectiveness are frustrating to many of us across industries. The popular belief – An accident happened because procedures were not followed. But could it also be that the procedures could not be followed? This is a theme that we explore in this article. When safety tools serve another […]

Bad seamanship: Is that so?

Weighing options Dismissing the actions of crew involved in an incident as ‘poor seamanship’ ignores the myriad commercial and regulatory pressures that they operate under Words: Nippin Anand Picture the scene: The Hoegh Osaka has just departed from the port of Southampton, at which point the master calls up the mate and says that the […]