9 August 2007

If anyone reading this has been in the unfortunate position of having to work with lawyers and P&I representatives after an accident, they will understand the importance of good quality records...

Author: Captain Len Holder

If you are a P&I investigator, no doubt you will have experienced the frustration of trying to defend your client’s interests with records that are insufficient, inaccurate or falsified. The book “Mariners Role in Collecting Evidence” by Dr Phil Anderson FNI is one of the books that should be read by everyone before they have a problem. Afterwards is too late. Good record keeping needs to start NOW!


Following a minor navigational error, which led to major accident, I was called in to help prevent a recurrence. I was doing my research degree at the time, mathematically modelling navigational accuracy. The reason for the accident turned out to be a lack of communication on the bridge, rather than a technical error in the equipment. I told them that fitting new equipment would not solve the problem, after which I was told my services were no longer required. The new consultant recommended that keeping better records would solve the problem. Before each course alteration, the officer on watch had a) to write down what he was going to do, then after the alteration b) write down what he had done and c) if a and b were different, explain why. The results were sent ashore at the end of the voyage. After a while I was invited to analyse the records, but I declined, as I doubted whether the results were useful in solving a human problem. The practice was stopped when one ship arrived in the UK and the representative from head office went on board and asked for the voyage record to take back to London. The officer said “Which one do you want?” The reply was “Is there more than one?” The junior officer innocently replied “Yes, the one we prepare to send to the office, and the other one, which is what we really did!”

One of the hazards of the modern world is the ease with which data can be collected. The next consultancy I was offered was another company which did not know what to do with the paper engine room data-logger readouts that were being stored in the rafters of their Dock Office. The building inspector said that if they were collected at the current rate, the roof would soon collapse. I declined the offer.


These true stories illustrate that record keeping should be carefully thought through:

  1. What is to be recorded?
  2. How it will be used?
  3. Records should be accurate.
  4. Records should be truthful.
  5. The reason for keeping them should be understood and respected by those ashore and those at sea.


This series of articles is about training, and as stated in my book “Training and Assessment On Board,” there are three main reasons for keeping training records:

  1. Seafarers will require records of training and assessments to present to national authorities as part of the certification process, or to companies as evidence of qualifications for future employment.
  2. Senior Sea staff need records to monitor progress against training plans, for independent audits of training, for reports to shore-based managers and inspectors, and if necessary for P&I Club representatives and others.
  3. Companies require records in order to ensure that the Company’s training policy is being carried out, and to demonstrate compliance with national and international regulations.

The form in which the records are kept will vary, depending upon the validating body. Existing legislation such as the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping Convention (STCW) highlight the need for systematic records of training and assessment.


Cadet training records books, which had long been used in the UK and some other countries, were adopted as examples of good practice by the International Shipping Federation and were updated in the late 1990s. The second edition of “On Board Training Record Book for Deck Cadets” was published in 1996 and for Engineer Cadets in 1997.

For a professional body such as the Nautical Institute these cadet record books are most important, as they define the practical sea training, which should be at the core of our competency-based certification system. The fact that some cadets reach the end of their sea time with many tasks missing or poorly covered, is and indictment against the whole industry. Is it the officers’ fault for not making training a priority, the companies fault for not providing enough guidance and resources, or the cadets’ fault for not taking responsibility themselves to complete them. Probably a bit of all of them, but an indictment, nevertheless.

Record books for Deck Ratings and Engineer Ratings were published in 2001 and 2002 respectively. All four will probably need to be reviewed and republished when the STCW Code is revised in the future. Originally published in 1998, by the International Shipping Federation (ISF) the “Service Record Book” which allows every qualified seafarer to maintain records of training related to STCW in a single “passport style” book is another very useful document, which includes a wallet for STCW documentation and a supplement for recording drills and exercises.

These documents provide evidence of the state of our industry and individual’s competencies. We should regard them as VERY IMPORTANT!


If everyone is going to reach the same standard, the single-line descriptions in the Record Book need to be amplified into a more comprehensive training package that offers advice and guidance.

A major shipping group approached Videotel with the idea of proving a CD-ROM based training package to provide the necessary advice for cadets when the experienced officer responsible for training was busy and not immediately on hand to guide them or answer questions. The result of this request was MEETS - STCW, which is designed to help cadets as they progress through their training record book. It forms an encyclopaedia of information with which a cadet should be familiar by the end of his or her qualifying sea service. It is linked to each task listed in the ISF’s “On Board Training Record Book for Deck Cadets” (over 360 tasks). Every task is supported by a training module, created by a panel of experienced master mariners all of whom have supervised deck cadets during their sea service.

Each training module contains:

  • Practical training descriptions
  • Background information and knowledge
  • Safety issue reminders
  • Answers to “how to” questions
  • A list of reference material
  • Assignments
  • Self assessment questions

All tasks deal with STCW functions:

  • Navigation at the Operational Level
  • Cargo Handling and Stowage at the Operational Level (including cargo handling and stowage - Tasks for Tankers)
  • Controlling the Operation of the Ship and Care for Persons on Board at the Operational Level

All the tasks within these functions are easily accessed using an index structure which lists the hierarchy of competences as shown in the record book.


Videotel experience in the early 1990s showed that shipboard training records were almost non-existent in many companies using our training materials. The more efficient companies did keep records of which crewmembers had viewed which programmes, but there was no record of whether they had learned much from the contents. If, for example, they watched a Firefighting video and then carried out an adequate drill, everyone was satisfied.


How things have changed! Partly through the need to satisfy regulations, but much more because the best companies’ have made enormous efforts to improve training standards, the records are now much more comprehensive and more useful for those who have to plan, monitor and review it. A small section in the Third edition of “Training and Assessment on Board” dealt with electronic records. Today there are products like OTMplus and FTA.


This collects completed training records Videotel’s computer-based training packages, assessment packages and training courses.

  • Records any type of training, including drills.
  • Provides an easy-to-use facility to record who does what training, when and with assessments and scores (if appropriate).
  • Assesses training effectiveness, which can be used to measure the usefulness of any training.

It can be included as part of Videotel's registered Safety Training Library Scheme.



This enables the Training Manager or Fleet Manager to use his/her PC to view the entire training records of all his officers and crew.

  • Imports training records from ships, including records of all onboard training as monitored and collected by the ship's OTMplus.
  • Imports and enables the viewing of other training records such as assessment results from SETSplus [link to Sets], MEETS [link to Meets] and other Videotel CBTs [link to courses].
  • Import of details of Certificates of Competence and shore-based short courses attended by trainees.
  • Enables the viewing of training records of individual seafarers.
  • Enables the viewing of training records of individual ships.
  • Prints training crew and administration reports.

Videotel offer these systems as part of our Rental Library.


A later article in the series will show the way in which these records can be managed through dedicated PC systems and by using the Internet.


It is a sad fact that those of us who have good fortune not to have to cope with accidents, have managed to keep in good jobs and have enjoyed our careers, are often the ones who find it hardest to cope when things go wrong, and wish we had taken a bit more trouble keeping accurate records of what we did and what when. Please don’t be caught out. KEEP GOOD RECORDS!