A ships emergency plan is, I would say, the most important plan on board. It will assist you to reach your muster station and to deal with different emergency situations which might occur, and SOLAS describes clearly what information is required on such plan.
Despite this, I have seen a number of emergency plans which do not fullfill SOLAS requirements. The design of the plan is schematic and this type of plan is on board more or less all vessels in the modern Scandinavian offshore fleet, but I will not say that all of them does not meet the requirements, only that I have not met anyone yet on the number of vessels I have been on board.
This particular type of emergency plan is developed by the shipyards and seems to be a kind of template. In my opinion this is a good start in the process to achieve a good emergency organization on board, but it seems like the shipowners are happy with just the template, without reviewing and adapt it to the particular ship and its own organization. Neither does the shipowners or classification societies check that it is according to regulations before delivery.
The emergency plan shall show the duties assigned to the different members of the crew including:
- closing watertight doors, fire doors, velves, scuppers, sidescuttles, skylights, portholes and other similar openings in the ship;
- equipping of the survival crafts and other life-saving appliances;
- preparation and launching of survival craft;
- general preparations of other life-saving appliances;
- muster of passengers;
- use of communication equipment
- manning of fire parties assigned to deal with fires; and
- special duties assigned in respect to the use of fire-fighting equipment and installations.
It is also a requirement that the emergency plan shall specify which officers are assigned to ensure that life-saving and fire appliances are maintained in good condition and are ready for immediate use, as well as it shall specify substitutes for key persons who may become disabled, taking into account that different emergencies may call for different actions.
Additional requirements are valid for passenger ships as well.
There are especially three things that normally are missing on the plans.
- Use of communication equipment – It is not stated what channel(s) to use in case of an emergency
- Officers responsible for the maintainence of equipment
- Substitute personnel for key persons
Also, the emergency plan must be allowed to be a dynamic document, especially regarding the duties of personnel. Just because you are mustered as AB No.1, who’s duties are to be a member of the smokedivers team, is not the same thing as you are suitable for this task. This might lead to that another crew member is assigned this duty and you have to do something else instead. In this situation it must be possible to make changes to the emergency plan so it reflects the true organization.
What is your experience?