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A view from the FOC'SLE #1: Series Intro

BLOG | May 2022

Welcome to the Foc’sle!

This is the first of a series of blogs taking aim at issues of concern to our Industry; some will be loss prevention-related, others of general marine interest, some topical, and some, just general thoughts on matters maritime.

First, let’s have a little discussion about the blog series title.

The Foc’sle [fo’·​c’sle | \ ˈfōk-səl], properly called the “Forecastle,” is that bit of deck at the very bow of the ship. This is the part of the ship that contains the anchors, chains, windlass, and the ship’s bell. Since time immemorial, a lookout man was stationed on the Foc’sle when the ship was at sea at night. His job was to…keep a lookout! More particularly, he was to ring the ship’s bell if he spotted anything from his perch – 1 stroke of the bell for something seen to Port, 2 if to Starboard, and 3 if seen right ahead.

A view from the FOC'SLE Coastal Marine Blog

Why the 1-2-3? If a ship is sighted right ahead, the risk of collision may exist so ringing 3 bells raise more ruckus and attracts the bridge watchkeeper’s attention. A ship crossing from starboard has right of way, so the 2 bells is meant to draw prompt attention. A ship coming in from port should give way to us, so the single bell is just to let the watchkeepers know something is there and to keep it in mind.

As someone specifically tasked with loss prevention, I felt that it would not be appropriate to call the Blog “From the Wheelhouse, Bridge, Control Room, etc”, as the function of loss prevention is not to steer the ship or to run the machinery. Its job is very much akin to that of a lookout, and to ring the appropriate number of bells to let those in command know what may be ahead.

What lies ahead from the Lookout Man

For the next part of the series blog, we will take a look at crewing matters in general, and the parlous state of crew recruitment. We will ask if unmanned, ‘remote controlled’ ships are the answer, or are there deeper issues that need to be addressed?

Following that, a three-month fishing vessel trifecta is planned that will look at Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) practices and how Insurers may be affected by this. A discussion on the use of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) will include looking at steps available to Governments, and the generally reticent attitude to VMS by fishermen. Finally, as a lookout, a forward view is appropriate so we will get out the crystal ball and see where the fishing industry may be headed in the future.

On all shipowners’ and ship managers’ minds now are the letters EEXI which stands for Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index. How can the increasing requirements set out by IMO be economically met? What happens if a ship fails to comply? What happens to global logistics if all ships are compelled to slow down beyond commercial requirements? What will this do to the scrap market and, by inference, to the second-hand market? Will ship values fall as a result?

Throughout the coming months, we will also keep a sharp lookout on what is happening in Ukraine, and how that does, or will in the future, affect the maritime industry.

As a final item on the monthly menu, for now, will be a look at this dreaded word — Sanctions.

Just the other day, a VLCC broke away from her moorings (in good weather, too), damaged the loading arms, and proceeded to run aground. She has been exposed as a sanction runner, and has no P&I Cover, the Club having previously terminated it. Does she have H&M cover? Time will tell. But what we already know is that some 10% of the global VLCC fleet is engaged in running sanctions. What of the hundred and one other vessel types?

How can Insurers avoid offering cover to sanctioned vessels, owners, managers, or charterers? What would happen to vessel values if (or when) major trade sanctions are lifted and there is no further need for subterfuge?

Lookout man coastal marine blog loss prevention

As a disclaimer for all the issues that will be discussed from here on, it should be borne in mind that “The opinions expressed are those of your Lookout Man and do not necessarily reflect Coastal Marine’s official policy.”

Also, this blog series will be much more enjoyable if you let me have your comments as they are intended to be one side of a conversation, not a diatribe!

So, join me on the Foc’sle next month!




The Lookout Man

capt jon elliot coastal marine

About The Lookout Man

Captain Jon Elliott

Capt. Jon began his seafaring career in 1960.  He spent 11 Years in Taiwan running US Lines and then moved to Singapore in 1980 where he eventually joined Matthews Daniel in Singapore in 1989 and becoming Far East Managing Director. Capt. Jon started his own company Elliott Associates Pte Ltd after his retirement to bring an enhanced level of loss prevention to the Asian Marine industry. Capt. Jon is a consultant to Coastal Marine Asia Holdings Limited in our Loss Prevention Division providing technical guidance to our underwriters, whilst arranging crew and management loss prevention training for some of our insureds.

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