Perhaps due to our preoccupation with trying to avoid or avert casualties, we see more examples of this syndrome than would otherwise be the case, but certainly, anyone who has got more than a drop of seawater in their boots has come across it.
Circumstances conspire to present an unfolding ‘incident’ but the crew who are best placed to avert a casualty stare wide-eyed and take no action whilst the worst happens!
Why is this so?
Is the present-day Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) training and examination process required by the IMO sufficient?
Is the pervasive atmosphere of Company Regulation as enshrined in the vessels’ Safety Management System somehow defective?
Is the ship-to-shore communication route appropriate?
We should probably look at the aviation industry for some pointers.
Training for emergencies is very intensive and repetitive. Flight crews are required to undergo frequent refresher training and “line checks” to ensure that their responses to emergencies are as automatic and effective as humanly possible. Simulators are widely used for this.
Communications are carefully nurtured, with the pilot monitoring person duty-bound to let the pilot flying know loud and clear if he is doing something wrong, irrespective of rank. The seniority gradient is also considered in scheduling crews.
(Can one imagine a newly certificated 3rd Mate telling a crusty old Captain he is doing the wrong thing? Hardly!)
But perhaps the reason for this syndrome is all of the above and none of the above.
Training and examinations appear to me to be reasonably realistic and sufficiently demanding, at least in the major maritime nations.
For the inclusiveness of the Company Regulations, there is a benchmark against which these are constructed and administered by the Flag State (or Recognised Organisation) of the individual vessel/company so, it would be unusual to find defective regulations.
So now we come to communication, and there is a good argument to be made to state that here is where the heart of the matter lies.
Some suggestions are perhaps appropriate at this point, and your Lookout Man would be delighted to have some feedback, or even a good old-fashioned ‘room for discussion’, from readers!