Genoa - During one of my last third party inspections onboard a passenger ferry sailing daily on a two hours route, I pointed out some critical issues like a number of portable extinguishers smaller than what established by the Fire Plan, 10% of the smoke detectors out of service and the cylinders of the CO2 fixed systems with the safety pin still inserted in the locked position. Leaving apart easy comments about the dangerousness of the situation, a CO2 with the safety pin still inserted in the valves is effectively unusable, what surprised me the most while announcing the situation to the inspector was the reply he gave me: “It is weird because the maintenance company performed the fire appliances service some two months ago on each equipment”. My concern at that time, I will never get used to such an answer, was referred to multiple factors but what surprised me the most was the feeling, from the sound of the reply, of a total unawareness about the seriousness of the pointed out criticality in terms of fire safety.
Feeling that was increased by when understanding that there was no fire appliances surveillance procedure onboard in charge of the crew with special attention to the CO2 system. In days where everything has become urgent and where the existence of instruments like email or even whatsapp create in people the idea of being able to ask for everything to be done immediately even at three thousand miles, what counts the most is the idea of having all the needed certificates timely issued in case of Authority inspection but the effective verification of correspondence between certificates and ongoing situation is considered as marginal.
Questioned by myself on the situation the inspector defended himself recalling the maintainer responsibilities and in front of my objection that despite the maintainer responsibilities the real issue was tied to the onboard safety his opinion did not change. Situation like this one, that are not fore sure daily but that happen with a frequency higher than normally expected, are exactly those ones where a small manageable incident can suddenly translate into something tremendously bigger and more serious. Nevertheless there well established instruments like the CoastbGuard Circulars (Circolare 100 Rev.1) or the IMO Circulars (MSC/Circ. 1318 - 1432 -1516) that clearly recall the need of surveillance of the fire appliances even at short frequency like weekly or monthly inspections. And what to say about the indications coming from the builders manuals? No questions can create so much panic like the one referred to the builder manual, like a scary monster. But the builder indications are ones that must be followed first. Obviously the responsibility of the situation described in the article falls on many subjects like the maintainer, like the owner granting the job based on the low money and not on the professional skills and like many others but all of them have some unconsciousness in common: you must not play with the fire safety. I know I am boring and keep typing always the same button but ai will never get used to the underestimation of situation like this one, whether they be conscious or unconscious.
But fortunately there are so many people out there showing me the opposite.