Alert! 8 - Testing times for the crew
When they eventually board their new ship, the expectations of the crew are of a ship that is ‘fit for purpose’ - designed and built with the user and the operational task in mind, taking into account the environmental conditions that it is likely to encounter during its working life. Few, if any, of the crew will have been involved in the design and build, yet these are the people who are going to work and live within the ship.
It is the crew members – and not just the senior officers - who will first spot those irritating design errors, some of which may not be readily identified until sea trials; but which could so easily be rectified before commissioning, such as: critical lines of sight obscured by equipment, machinery or furniture; poor leads for ropes and wires; tripping hazards around the decks; doors that open onto narrow working alleyways; hand rails that are too close to the bulkhead; poor access and removal routes for equipment and machinery – to name but a few.
The practice of using experienced senior crew standing by the ship to undertake checks of systems and equipment is fading fast. Indeed, in some cases, a substantial discount is offered to purchasers who surrender this right. This discount represents a fraction of the money the yard will save by not being monitored. It is an even smaller fraction of the through-life cost of living with, working around and/or correcting the resulting obstacles to optimum operation of the ship.
It is important that the crew are familiar with their ship, well before it leaves the builder’s yard. Those who have to operate the various systems must be properly trained on them; they should not be expected to ‘pick it up’ after they have joined the ship, or accept a quick briefing on it from the commissioning engineer, or simply read the handbook - which may in itself be technically complicated, difficult to understand, and not even written in the native language of the reader.