Cadets & the con

Monday, September 12th, 2011 at 16:45 | by Alistair Baillie

We presently have a few final trip cadets onboard and both myself and the other 2nd officers have been giving them “the con” whenever possible. Now I know there are different ways of doing this, since we are single watch keeping ships and any cadets who qualify and come to work for us as newly qualified officers will be on their own – we have taken the approach of staying quiet and leaving them too it. We have been intentionally letting them make mistakes (providing they aren’t dangerous) on the basis that its better they do it as a cadet, where we are there to fix it if they cant, than they make it as a newly qualified officer.

Through doing this I (and we) have noticed a few, for lack of a better phrase, common mistakes that are being made;

I wish to point out that each of these was a different cadet – and the last one is not really a mistake, just something to keep in mind!

Getting distracted by other tasks!

Yes, fixing the vessels position, completing log books and dealing with fire alarms, phone calls etc. are all important, however – your primary focus should be the SAFE NAVIGATION of the vessel. Spending 10 minutes behind a chart table position fixing and working out EP’s is all well and good – but do pay attention to what else is happening round about the ship.

In one of the many examples I could choose, I had asked the cadet when we would be 12nm out (a requirement for black water discharge) – as he couldn’t tell me he was promptly told to work it out. This took rather a long time, during which time 3 other vessels entered both radar and visual range – despite both lookouts announcing the presence of the traffic the cadet failed to reappear and either acquire them on ARPA (a system that tracks targets and calculates various information such as how close it is going to come to us) or look out the window!

Trial Maneuver is your friend!

On several occasions cadets have altered course at way points or to avoid ships without actually knowing or appreciating the affect the alteration would have on the traffic situation. Modern radars have a very useful feature that you should get acquainted with called “Trial Maneuver”. This feature as the name suggests allows you to key in course alterations &/or speed changes and see what effect it will have on surrounding traffic if you did it instantly or delayed your alteration.

In the most recent example, the cadet chose to alter course at a waypoint onto the next leg (it was a 100 degree alteration), when he started to alter I enquired what course he intended to come round too. “The track” was the response… I then pointed out that if he did that we would be in a head-on situation with 4 north bound ships, so what course will pass us clear with a safe CPA – again he had no idea – in fact he had not even acquired the targets on the ARPA he was using.

Learn the damn COLREGS!

As our cadet’s are realising there are a large number of ships out there who either don’t know the rules, are asleep or generally have decided to disobey them. I have came close to throwing a cadet off the bridge because they, despite being last trip, had no clue about what the COLREGs actually said.

Sometimes a speed change is the best action!

Don’t forget that sometimes changing your speed is the easiest way to resolve a situation. In this example we had a vessel overtaking us from our starboard quarter. This had been going on for some time, it had started before my watch and 1 hour later he had managed to get 2nm away still with a bow cross range of 0.1 cables. The cadet had enquired earlier what action / when you should take action if a vessel is overtaking you fails to keep out your way and this presented a nice example for him.

The first suggestion of the cadet was to call him on VHF; I promptly shot this down mainly because he was clearly not paying attention since we are a nice big bright passenger ship and if we wake him up he might do something incredibly stupid and hit us.

Second suggestion was to make a course alteration to port, as he had correctly identified that turning to starboard was a stupid idea – when I enquired how big an alteration would need to be made the cadet was surprised with the huge answer the trial maneuver provided.

At the time we were making 12kts (with a top speed of 20kts – although with the present engine configuration we could only make 14kts if necessary)… I then asked what speed would be required to pass ahead of him at 1nm? He was surprised that if we increased by half a knot to 12.5 he would pass at least 1nm astern of us.

Anyway, this is just a few, I will add some more when I come across them… Next week will be VTS Assisted Collisions 🙂

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