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Seafaring A – Z Alphabet – “S” is for…


Seafaring “S” is for…

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Security – Shipping has long been vulnerable to attack, fraud and crime at sea, so the industry takes maritime security seriously. People, cargoes and vessels have an inherent value and so are attractive targets for terrorists, pirates, fraudsters and criminals. Different areas have different risks, but security is an increasingly important part of shipboard operations.

There is no universally agreed or accepted definition of “maritime security” – and that makes it difficult to ensure a level and equal application of the measures to safeguard it.

According to dictionary definitions, “security” means “the state of being protected or safe from harm”. While this rather vague notion may apply ashore, in a shipping context it needs to be expanded slightly.

“Maritime Security” can perhaps best considered as the combination of preventive and responsive measures to protect seafarers, ships, cargoes and the environment against threats and intentional unlawful acts.

It is not just crews and ships, nations have a “Maritime Security” focus too, and this is very different to that of the shipping industry. This sovereign concept of maritime security encompasses a responsibility to protect a nation’s waters and assets. When discussing maritime security, it is useful therefore to ensure that each party is discussing from a defined and understood perspective.

The most important rules can be found in the International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code. Development of the current risk management approach to maritime security started in 1985 in the wake of the hijacking of the cruise ship “Achille Lauro” and was further refined and eventually codified after the attacks on the World Trade Center in the USA in September 2001.

These attacks, amongst others, demonstrated how exposed transport systems and their infrastructure could be. The fact that air transport was targeted caused major concern and a dawning realisation that other sectors could be vulnerable too. If the aviation sector, which had always been at the vanguard of security innovation and investment, could suffer at the hands of terrorists then shipping was starting to look like a very soft target indeed.

They made many consider how vulnerable ships are, and how attractive they could be as targets, which was further highlighted by the 2002 attack on the VLCC Limburg off Yemen. Security advice had long been issued to the maritime industry but it was in the face of an ever increasing onslaught of piracy, terrorism, stowaways and drug smuggling that the shipping industry started to truly harden itself against being a potential target.


Ship docked

Shore leave – Shore leave is the time that seafarers get to spend on dry land. Historically, shore leave was often a time of excess and exuberance for crew. It was an opportunity to drink in excess, indulge in other pleasures, and to generally put the usual workaday life at sea behind them for a short time.

Today things are very different indeed – and while shore leave is considered one of the most time honoured and important aspects of being a seafarer, it has become ever harder for crews to get away from the ship and pressures of work.

The International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code and the United States’ Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) were introduced to the industry as a means of controlling the security, but unfortunately it seems that the movements of seafarers have been severely affected.

The rules have seen port States, ports and terminals ramp up their security, and so shore leave, has become a political, security and law enforcement issue. Seafarers who previously have been able to move relatively freely have become trapped aboard their vessels.

Some port facilities prohibit transit through their facility, even barring seafarers from stepping onto the berth to obtain draft readings. Others only allow transit if scheduled well in advance, and then charge high fees for the required escort service.

It used to be possible to enjoy the time when a vessel eventually arrived into a port. However, that no longer seems universally true. With increasing time constraints and pressures, times have changed.

According to the Crewtoo Seafarer Happiness Index, “Restrictions, stringent security and high costs placed on seafarers are seen as being majorly significant, and they have a negative effect”. Some seafarers are not even taking shore leave because of work load increases in port. Commercial pressures and the level of shipboard inspections are taking their toll. Put even more starkly seafarers are dreading port calls because of the increased workload.

Dealing with multiple inspections, cargo work, security demands, and port stress and workload in port are ramping up to almost unsustainable levels. Long gone are the days when seeing port hove in to sight meant something to look forward too – today, it is more likely to signal a procession of inspections, and more work to be done.

Some stated that Captains were forbidding seafarers from going ashore. Some seafarers it was felt that work pressures meant they did not find the atmosphere onboard conducive to asking for permission for shore leave.

The harsh reality of vessels working to tight schedules and seafarers having to keep pace means seafarers were seldom given the chance for even “stretching their legs on the road”. It all seems a very sorry state of affairs. The chance to break free from the norm, to dress differently and have a change of environment was seen as being hugely beneficial. So too was the ability of seafarers to “see the world”, while refreshing minds and souls, relieving homesickness and the loneliness felt at sea.


Six degrees of freedom

Six Degrees of Freedom – The movements and motions of a ship are defined by the “six degrees of freedom” that a vessel or any other craft can experience, these are the up and down, side to side, lifting and lowering sensations that are felt at sea.

The 6 freedoms are:
• Heaving
• Pitching
• Rolling
• Surging
• Swaying
• Yawing

Heaving – Heaving is the linear movement of the ship through the Z axis, up and down. In rough weather a wave comes under the bottom of the ship and the whole ship will lifted up bodily. Then the whole ship will be lowered down bodily as the trough forms. The ship will oscillate in linear direction. It is an involuntary, straight up and down, non-rotary movement.

Pitching – Pitching is the rotary movement of the ship around the Y axis, side to side. If the ship is floating upright in calm water, the centre of gravity and the centre of buoyancy are sat in a vertical line. However, as a wave hits the vessel, the centre of buoyancy will shift, while the centre of gravity remains stationary (as there is no change in weight). So suddenly the centre of buoyancy and centre of gravity are not in a vertical line, and a lever is created, which sees the ship move in a rotation around this axis.

Rolling – Rolling is the rotary movement of the ship around the X axis, like an inverted pendulum. When a wave impacts the ship side, the underwater volume of that particular side will increase. The centre of buoyancy, being the centre of the underwater volume it will shift – while the centre of gravity remains – so again a lever develops. This will cause the ship to incline and creates an involuntary rotary movement.

Surging – Surging is the liner movement through the X axis, forward and backwards. When a crest of wave strikes the one end of ship, ship will be pushed bodily in the direction of wave. When a trough of wave forms at one end of the ship, ship will be pulled bodily towards the trough. The ship will oscillate in linear direction. It is an involuntary non-rotary movement.

Swaying – Swaying is the linear movement through the Y axis, side to side. When a crest of wave strikes the side, the ship will be pushed bodily in the direction of wave. The ship will oscillate in linear direction, and this “sway”.

Yawing – Yawing is the rotary movement through the Z axis, the bow moving from side to side. When a crest of wave strikes the bow, it is pushed in the direction of wave. While a trough pulls the bow too – so creating an involuntary rotary movement around the Z axis.

SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) – The SOLAS Convention in its successive forms is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships. The first version was adopted in 1914 while subsequent updates in 1929, the third in 1948, and the fourth in 1960.

There then followed a 1974 version includes the “tacit acceptance procedure” – which provides that an amendment shall enter into force on a specified date unless, before that date, objections to the amendment are received from an agreed number of Parties. As a result the 1974 Convention has been updated and amended on numerous occasions. The Convention in force today is sometimes referred to as SOLAS, 1974, as amended.



The first version of SOLAS was passed in 1914 in response to the sinking of the “RMS Titanic”. It prescribed numbers of lifeboats and other emergency equipment along with safety procedures, including continuous radio watches. Alas the 1914 treaty never entered into force due to the outbreak of the First World War.

SOLAS 1974, requires flag States to ensure that their ships comply with minimum safety standards in construction, equipment and operation. It includes articles setting out general obligations, followed by an annexe divided into twelve chapters.

Of these, chapter five (often called ‘SOLAS V’) is the only one that applies to all vessels on the sea, including private yachts and small craft on local trips as well as to commercial vessels on international passages. Many countries have turned these international requirements into national laws so that anybody on the sea who is in breach of SOLAS V requirements may find themselves subject to legal proceedings.

SOLAS covers issues including aspects relating to, the various types of ships and how they are certified in meeting the requirements of the convention. It covers construction and stability, fire protection, life-saving apparatus, radiocommunications, the safety of navigation, carriage of cargoes and dangerous goods.

It also extends to the management of ships, through the ISM Code and security through the ISPS Code. There are also specialised chapters on the likes of nuclear powered ships, construction of bulk carriers, passenger safety on cruise ships, and now also safety measures for ships operating in polar waters, the “Polar Code”.

As at March 2016, SOLAS 1974 has 162 contracting States, which flag about 99% of merchant ships around the world in terms of gross tonnage.

See,-1974.aspx for more information.


Model of old ship

Starboard – Port and starboard are nautical terms for “left and right”, respectively. Port is the left-hand side of or direction from a vessel, facing forward. Starboard is the right-hand side, facing forward.

Since port and starboard never change, they are unambiguous references that are not relative to the observer. The vessel’s starboard side always remains that way, regardless of whichever way someone is facing.

The term starboard derives from the Old English “steorbord”, meaning the side on which the ship is steered. Before ships had rudders on their centrelines, they were steered with a steering oar at the stern of the ship and, because more people are right-handed, on the right-hand side of it.

The term is cognate with the Old Norse stýri (rudder) and borð (side of a ship). Since the steering oar was on the right side of the boat, it would tie up at wharf on the other side. Hence the left side was called port.

Formerly larboard was used instead of port. This is from Middle-English “ladebord” and the term lade is related to the modern load. Obviously Larboard sounds similar to starboard, and so there were problems with this being heard and understood properly. So in 1844 the Royal Navy ordered the term “port” be used instead, other navies followed suit.

The port side of a vessel is indicated with a red navigation light and the Starboard side with a green one, to help avoid collisions.

Port and Starboard are also key aspects of buoyage, more particularly lateral buoys. These are defined by the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA), a sea mark used in maritime pilotage to indicate the edge of a channel.

Each mark indicates the edge of the safe water channel in terms of port (left-hand) or starboard (right-hand). These directions are relative to the direction of buoyage; this is usually a nominally upstream direction. A vessel heading in the direction of buoyage (e.g. into a harbour) and wishing to keep in the main channel should:

• Keep port marks to its port side, and
• Keep starboard marks to its starboard side.



Stowaways – The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, 1965, as amended, (The FAL Convention) defines a stowaway as a person who is secreted on a ship, or in cargo which is subsequently loaded on the ship, without the consent of the shipowner or the Master or any other responsible person and who is detected on board the ship after it has departed from a port, or in the cargo while unloading it in the port of arrival, and is reported as a stowaway by the master to the appropriate authorities.

In its most basic sense, the term refers to any person found on board a ship without authorisation and with intent to travel with the vessel. Often when found onboard, the initial status of stowaways is usually unclear.

They may be refugees attempting to escape war or religious persecution, migrants looking to raise their standard of living, political asylum seekers in search of relief from oppression, illegal immigrants hoping to enter a country undetected or criminals who may be involved with drug trafficking or other illegal activities. Whatever their motivation, stowaways pose significant security, safety, commercial and liability issues for shipping. The stowaway problem is a serious one and shows no sign of abating.

It is a sad fact that many people, more often than not young men, feel compelled to stow away on ships in search of a new life of perceived opportunity overseas. This poses serious problems for seafarers and shipowners.

The first aim of the industry is to keep stowaways off the vessel, and so ship and port security are vitally important. Ports should restrict access and people should not be able to move freely onto vessels. Also ships should ensure that stowaway searches are conducted before vessels depart, these should be rigorous and effective.

If these efforts fail and people do manage to hide onboard, then the issue becomes much more complicated, and seafarers need to know how to best deal with the situation.

If stowaways do get onboard, they need to be found, contained safely with due regard to their rights, and as much information as possible obtained from them to speed up the repatriation process. It can become costly and difficult to repatriate stowaways, so the best option is to make sure they do not get onboard.


Videotel STCW training catalogue

STCW – International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 was adopted on 7 July 1978 and entered into force on 28 April 1984.

The main purpose of the Convention is to promote safety of life and property at sea and the protection of the marine environment by establishing in common agreement international standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers. It was the first to establish basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level.

Previously the standards of training, certification and watchkeeping of officers and ratings were established by individual governments, usually without reference to practices in other countries. As a result, standards and procedures varied widely, even though shipping is extremely international by nature.

The Convention prescribes minimum standards relating to training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers which countries are obliged to meet or exceed. The regulations contained in the Convention are supported by sections in the “STCW Code”.

Generally speaking, the Convention contains basic requirements which are then enlarged upon and explained in the Code. Part A of the Code is mandatory. The minimum standards of competence required for seagoing personnel are given in detail in a series of tables. Part B of the Code contains recommended guidance which is intended to help Parties implement the Convention.

In 1995 the IMO adopted a comprehensive revision of STCW, and a new STCW Code, which would contain the technical details associated with provisions of the Convention. The amendments entered force on 1 February 1997.

The 1995 amendments included, enhancing port State control; a quality standards systems (QSS), oversight of training, assessment, and certification procedures, and seafarers were to be provided with “familiarization training” and “basic safety training” which includes fire prevention & fire fighting, elementary first aid, personal survival techniques, and personal safety and social responsibility. This training is intended to ensure that seafarers are aware of the hazards of working on a vessel and can respond appropriately in an emergency. 1995 amendments also saw the rest period requirements for watchkeeping personnel introduced.

In 2010 came the “Manila amendments to the STCW Convention and Code” these were aimed at bringing the Convention and Code up to date with developments since they were initially adopted and to enable them to address issues that are anticipated to emerge in the foreseeable future.

Amongst the amendments adopted, there are a number of important changes to each chapter, including measures to prevent fraudulent practices, further refinement of the hours of work and rest, and new requirements for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse,

The Manila Amendments also updated standards relating to medical fitness standards for seafarers, and began to address requirements relating to training in modern technology such as electronic charts and information systems (ECDIS) and provided training guidance for personnel operating Dynamic Positioning (DP) Systems and for electro-technical officers

There were also developments relating to specific skills and management – these were requirements for marine environment awareness training and training in leadership and teamwork as well as security training, and provisions to ensure that seafarers are properly trained to cope if their ship comes under attack by pirates;

Key to the STCW Convention is how and where training is delivered. So STCW requires that training leading to the issue of a certificate is ‘approved’. The IMO does not approve any training courses or institutes, it is the responsibility of IMO Member Governments who have signed up to the STCW Convention to do so. Approval is normally given by the Maritime Administration of an STCW Party in accordance with the Convention requirements.

See for more details.