Alert! 14 - Effective communication


The key to successful operations

The ability to properly convey information by word of mouth and/or by written communication is important not only to the safety of ships’ crews, visitors and passengers, but also to the wellbeing of crews.

It would seem that the standard of English of some seafarers is so bad that they have difficulty communicating not only between themselves but also with agencies outside the ship.

The aim of the IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP) is to get round the problem of language barriers at sea and avoid those misunderstandings which can cause accidents. But, is it used at sea?

The key to improved verbal communication is in the recruitment of seafarers who have an understanding of the English language; in education in the art of effective communication and in the correct use of the English language in the maritime environment; and in a programme of regular testing in their knowledge of the English language.

Today there seems to be more paperwork than ever, in the form of e-mails, questionnaires, procedures and checklists. How many of us have stopped to consider whether the email that we have just sent to about 50 addressees was actually relevant to all of them? 

Perhaps the questionnaires and checklists are necessary, but do we need so many? Checklists are not foolproof; if properly used, they can be of considerable assistance as an aide-memoir for ensuring that nothing has been forgotten when carrying out, for example, a safety critical procedure. But, they can lead to a ‘tick in the box’ culture that, in turn, can breed complacency.


Staff Author