Personal Safety on Ships

personal safety on ships

Personal safety at sea involves various measures to prevent injuries and accidents. SHM Shipcare (2018) outlines key aspects:

  1. Protective Clothing: Proper attire is crucial to avoid injuries. Loose clothing can get entangled in machinery, so wearing well-suited clothes, appropriate footwear, and gloves is essential.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Helmets, earmuffs, shoes, goggles, masks, life jackets, and safety harnesses are vital in safeguarding seafarers from harm.
  3. Safety Equipment for the Crew: Lifeboats, emergency medical gear, fire extinguishers, fire suits, breathing devices, and distress signals are critical for emergencies.
  4. Movement About the Ship: Crew members must be vigilant for hazards on ships with heavy cargo. Containers should be securely tied, and the crew should watch out for slippery areas and unguarded railings.
  5. Appropriate Use and Placement of Tools: Portable tools should be carried safely, and safety guards must be in place before work begins to prevent accidents, shocks, or fires.
  6. Steady Handling of Hazardous Cargo: Dangerous cargo should be stored away from passengers, properly labeled, and handled following safety guidelines. Regular inspections are necessary to check for spills or leaks.
  7. Mooring: During the mooring process, passengers should stay clear of the area. Proper clearing of the mooring area is crucial to prevent damage caused by strained ropes.

Marine Emergency Equipment

marine emergency equipment

Ship emergency equipment comprises collective life-saving and personal protective gear. Collective items include lifeboats, rescue boats, life rafts. Personal equipment involves vests, life buoys, thermal protective suits, and agents. Due to the ship’s cargo and fuel, fire risk is high, posing threats to materials and human lives. Firefighting at sea demands crew expertise, appliance readiness, and firefighting media, considering hazards like open flames, improper propellant handling, oily waste, mechanical work, chemical reactions, short circuits, burst gas, and combustible substances. Extinguishing methods encompass built-in systems and portable fire extinguishers, which are crucial for onboard safety.

The importance of training

the importance of training

Identifying and assessing health and safety risks is crucial for worker well-being. Although complete risk elimination is often impractical, the focus should shift to control measures ensuring a safe workplace and procedures. Personal protective equipment (PPE) becomes necessary after exhausting preventive steps, but its use requires caution to avoid accidents resulting from reduced visibility or mobility. Worker training encompasses familiarization with work equipment and safety signals. Various PPE categories include head, hearing, face and eye, respiratory, body, hand, and foot protection, and safeguards against drowning and hypothermia. Safety signals on ships must adhere to standard protocols, using colors and symbols for universally comprehensible hazard communication. This is especially crucial for passenger ships with risks known to crews but not passengers. International standards regulate symbols related to rescue equipment and fire protection plans for effective communication.


Crew members

crew members

The ship’s crew comprises individuals on the crew list who hold proper titles earned through prescribed examinations and are authorized to perform specific roles. Training aligns with the STCW Convention’s standards. Authorization for onboard tasks requires physical and mental fitness determined by medical exams, monitored periodically every two years. Boarding eligibility is granted to those with valid seafarer’s licenses, verifying professional qualifications, medical fitness, and employment history.

Crew members services

Crew members are assigned to on-board services:

Ship services are categorized into Deck, Machine, Liaison, Health, and General Services. Deck service involves navigation, crew-related duties, cargo handling, and ship maintenance. Machine service focuses on power and auxiliary system operation, managed by the machine operator. The liaison service handles communication tasks through radio equipment, overseen by the liaison officer. Health service is mandatory on certain ships, with a doctor required; otherwise, medical duties fall on designated crew members. General service covers ship supply, lodging, catering, and overall maintenance. Deck crew members include officers, helmsmen, sailors, and trainees. Machine crew members comprise machine managers, officers, electricians, and trainees. Liaison crew members, such as radiotelegraphists, report directly to the master, while general service crew members, like cooks and waiters, answer to the first deck officer.

Basic duties of a crew member

basic duties of a crew member

A crew member must perform duties on board by his/her duties prescribed by law and rules of navigation to not jeopardize the safety of navigation and the ship, the safety of persons on board, and the risk of marine pollution.

Without the approval of the duty officer, the crew member must not leave the place where he is doing guard duty.

The crew member is obliged to immediately inform the officer in charge of any emergency and any irregularities observed concerning the safety of navigation (lighthouses, buoys).

In case of an accident, crew members are required to advocate for the rescue of persons, the ship and the cargo until their own life is not threatened.


Transparent communication and cooperation

transparent communication and cooperation

Good interpersonal relations are the basis of transparent communication and cooperation between the ship and the company. Some past experiences have taught us that the lack of open communication and cooperation within a shipping organization is directly related to external factors, specifically the shipping companies.

In the operation of ships and shipowners, the elements of coordination and extended responsibilities must undoubtedly be represented, enabling greater autonomy of the ship and its crew, thus making the company unable to neglect its interests.

Basic requirements for teamwork

basic requirements for teamwork

Effective interpersonal relationships in collaborative work demand attention to communication, teamwork, personal development, and the development of others. Despite decades of focus on communication in various sectors, including maritime organizations, the results have not significantly improved. Teams, comprising individuals with diverse profiles and common goals, thrive on strong, open communication, fostering equality and independence. Individual self-development relies on personal commitment and consideration of one’s contribution to organizational goals. Managers promoting contribution over personal standards inspire others’ development, fostering ambition and perfection. People’s evolution aligns with self-imposed demands and aspirations; high goals drive significant development, while lower expectations hinder progress. The pursuit of excellence and ambitious objectives contributes to personal and organizational growth.

Social structure and status

social structure and status

Social life is governed by social structure, which directs, regulates, and limits our participation in social activities. This structure encompasses elements such as social status, social roles, social groups, and social institutions. In modern societies, institutions are vital systems that enable members to achieve social goals through shared norms and values. The social system relies on values, standards, and roles, where values represent ideas and norms that guide group behavior. Social roles dictate prescribed ways of behaving in specific positions. Social status, distinct from occupation, denotes an individual’s place in a social structure, and people with similar statuses often share mindsets and lifestyles. Social roles are sets of culturally defined norms tied to specific social positions. Social structure brings order to social life through established rules and patterns.

Relationships on board

relationships on board

Onboard relationships adhere to a hierarchical structure led by the ship’s master, with three rounds of command and execution involving the deck officer, machine manager, and white staff or chef. Workflows are initiated by the first deck officer and duty officer. The commander, representing the company’s management, faces a delicate balance between managerial duties and crew understanding. Commanders prioritize roles as organizers, supervisors, educators, counselors, and nautical experts. Cooperation is prominent between deck staff, machine personnel, command bridge, and engine room, despite occasional misunderstandings. Optimal cooperation is seen in boarding and disembarking, followed by maintenance and machine operation. The perceived lack of cooperation between deck and machine personnel is attributed to misconceptions, emphasizing the need for enhanced collaboration in all aspects of ship operations.


Pollution prevention

pollution prevention

In 1973, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) ratified MARPOL, a crucial convention addressing various forms of pollution from ships. Over the years, MARPOL has undergone modifications and amendments to tackle issues like oil pollution, noxious liquid substances, harmful packaged substances, sewage, garbage, and air pollution. The convention has significantly reduced international shipping pollution and applies to 99% of the world’s merchant tonnage. Despite the growth in the shipping industry, MARPOL has achieved pollution reductions through technical, operational, and human element solutions. The IMO remains proactive in improving implementation and enforcement, emphasizing compliance with international regulatory requirements for shore-based reception facilities. 

Oil pollution

introduction the oprc convention

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) report highlights the significant role of oil tankers, transporting around 2,900 million tonnes of crude oil globally by sea annually. Thanks to IMO measures, oil tankers are now safely built, operated, and constructed to minimize oil spills. MARPOL regulations, implemented in 1983, have successfully reduced accidental oil pollution over the last 30 years. Noteworthy innovations include segregated ballast tanks and double hull requirements for new oil tankers, significantly enhancing marine environmental protection. MARPOL’s regulations on allowable discharges, like the 15ppm standard for oily water separation, have contributed to a notable decrease in operational oil pollution, emphasizing the need for continued efforts to ensure compliance.

Chemicals carried in bulk

chemical pollution

As per the International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2020 report, regulations governing the carriage of chemicals in bulk are outlined in SOLAS Chapter VII and MARPOL Annex II. Chemical tankers constructed post-July 1, 1986, must adhere to the International Bulk Chemical Code (IBC Code), ensuring safe transport of dangerous chemicals by sea. The IBC Code specifies design standards, construction, and equipment to mitigate risks to the ship, crew, and environment. For tankers built before July 1, 1986, compliance with the Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (BCH Code) is required.4.4.4. Noxious liquid substances in bulk

MARPOL Annex II, effective since April 6, 1987, addresses the environmental risks associated with shipping chemicals and liquid raw materials for various industries. It regulates the design, construction, equipment, and operation of chemical tankers, promoting eco-friendly transportation of noxious liquid substances. The key principles involve ensuring safe containment, dilution of discharges, and limiting releases into the sea. Comprehensive documentation of activities related to noxious liquid substances is mandated through a cargo record book.

Harmful substances in packed form

MARPOL Annex III focuses on preventing pollution by harmful substances in packaged form, providing regulations for their proper packaging standards. Marine pollutants, categorized by the IMDG code, pose dangers to marine life, impair seafood taste, or accumulate in aquatic organisms. Specific measures for packaging, labeling, storage, and documentation aboard ships are mandated to prevent marine pollutant discharge. In the event of emergencies, distinctive labeling aids in separating these pollutants from other cargoes. Sewage pollution is addressed by MARPOL Annex IV, recognizing the health hazards and environmental impacts of raw sewage discharge into the sea, emphasizing the contribution of ship-generated sewage to marine pollution alongside land-based sources.



MARPOL Annex V addresses the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), ship-generated garbage, particularly plastics, poses a significant threat to marine life, leading to ingestion and entanglement. While some coastal garbage comes from onshore activities, passing ships contribute substantially, choosing disposal at sea over proper port facilities. Changing attitudes towards ocean disposal, influenced by environmental awareness, highlight the need for education and robust enforcement of regulations like Annex V. The annex universally applies to all types of ships, from commercial vessels to pleasure crafts. It generally prohibits sea disposal of garbage, encompassing various waste types generated during normal ship operations, except for specific exemptions outlined in the regulations. Notably, fresh fish resulting from fishing activities is excluded from the garbage definition. Enforcement of MARPOL Annex V is crucial to combating marine pollution and fostering responsible waste disposal practices at sea.



Alcohol consumption on ships is diminishing due to stringent regulations, including random tests, and the adoption of non-alcohol policies by shipping organizations. The adverse effects on personal health, safety, and potential legal consequences prompt the avoidance of alcohol and drugs. Seafarers face strict penalties for substance use, with global regulations introducing severe sanctions for accidents involving drugs or alcohol. The 2010 amended STCW Convention mandates administrations to implement measures preventing substance use and sets a blood alcohol limit of 0.05%. STCW Code guidelines recommend no alcohol consumption four hours before watch-keeping duties, emphasizing safety, security, and environmental concerns.



All administrations share the responsibility of safeguarding the health and safety of individuals on board by implementing measures such as medical checkups that include drug and alcohol screenings, training programs for both seafarers and shore workers on substance abuse, promoting awareness through accident reports and risk assessment data, defining limits for alcohol consumption and drug use, and providing rehabilitation services for those with substance abuse problems. Additionally, legislation is needed to prevent discrimination against rehabilitated seafarers by employers.



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