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IMO Warning Labels Save Lives

By ShadelessFor him the moment of beginning and the end his sea- life was perhaps the time to re- start living for the rest of his life. For him, M/T Unlucky (!) was his first ship to be on board with a thousand and one full of hope and excitement? After graduating from the school, he packed his case and joined the ship as a trainee of engineering department in the Gulf of Izmit (Turkey).

M/T Unlucky, as her name implies whatever the types and numbers she may have as the misfortunes written on her destiny came along the berth of Gulf of Izmit to upload the chemical cargo loaded at the Black Sea after passing through the unbearable burden for the last two months.

Reported machine malfunctions to the company, fire alarm system failures, evacuation equipment failures, personnel changes, etc.. were all handled according to plans programmed and the repair parties were on the ship as she ported. They immediately started the work and accomplished all the work without delay. The required reports have been delivered to the ship, serviceable faults were resolved and the left- over issues has been delayed to be taken care of at a later date.

In the meantime, for the sake of the accomplishment of one of her responsibility she was supposed to deliver/ unload the cargo and depart as planned. For that the ship’s crew was continuously pushed into by the ship’s company inspectors, officials of the terminal and was asked to work harder over their daily performance.

Ship’s Chief Officer asked Chief Engineer “if you think that the performance of our machines is capable then I only can increase the capacity otherwise, I do not care what anybody else says“. “For my part I do not have any objections at all, you can use as much power as you are required” was the answer of the Chief Engineer. Saying that the Chief Officer increased the discharge capacity in a controlled manner. But still, he could not help to be close-by to the operation and asked the crew to report him every time. Based on the back reports he was convinced that the operation had been well controlled and there had been no problems. Exchange of information on the operation took about 13-14 hours. Chief Officer then as the dawn approaches, was about to hand over his shift to 2nd Officer at 05:30. He passed all the information about the operation to his 2nd Officer and headed for his cabin to have rest for 1-2 hours.

As he has about been washing his hands it just happened and that was first a deep silence and then a complete pitch-darkness. Chief Officer stepped out his cabin and walked in the corridor there he met with 2nd. officer and informed that fire had been broken out in the engine room. Wanted to run to put the Fire Alarm System in function but as a result of the fire alarm system not functioning he had to shout loudly to warn the crew.

That same day, chief officers gave the newly arrived trainees a tour around the engine room, and all informed him about the safety issues that he should pay utmost attention to. After that he was shown the cabin in which he was going to stay and meantime told that he would have his first night shift at between 04:00 – 08:00 hours. Coming together with colleagues for dinner at the evening of that unfortunate day he then went to his cabin for the rest. He has worked quite hard to make sense of what has been happening around all day long even not having the chance to open his suitcase he had fallen asleep. Later he had been taken up with the sound of “Watch Time” and went down to the engine room. He was all by himself alone as his rating collogue handed over the watch to him.

Opened his eyes to defeat the fear of the complete darkness and silence he then felt the smell of the smoke. He had been in difficulty to find the safe way out, as he was thinking about what to do. The only place known to him at that moment was the engine control room. Then he headed towards there. He then realized that this was not that worst dream full of fears that made him to wake up every morning in full sweat. It was one those moments that he would experienced as he had to take the path of a sharp curve in his life. His heart was crazily pounding in full beats. He then took a deep breath few times and had to sit down in despair. He was continuously walking among the check-points that he had to inspect and meantime attentively looking to some of the machines that he had firstly seen in the engine room. After controlling the hydraulic power peak (Framo) system that is excited by the generator shaft, he then headed for the engine room. There he heard the sound of that terrible explosion and collapsed totally down where he was.

Just then he saw close to himself that glowing pitch-mark mask in that complete darkness. It was somehow put there just for him. It may not save him from the fire but could help him to extend the time to breath. He tried to walk on his knees to reach out that sign and picked the E.E.B.D. (Emergency Escape Breathing Device). He placed it on his head and opened the valve then started to wait legs trembling in complete despair.

The chief officer in charge immediately gathered the whole crew at the aft and started the preparations for the immediate recovery of the intern who might be at that fire scene. Meantime he has to calm down those ones who were in complete panic and fear and has requested the help of the ambulance and the fire brigade from the terminal authorities. All including the company officials were informed and the cargo hoses that were still connected have been all unplugged.

Meanwhile the crew who were to intervene the fire was prepared. Despite the fact that all these fire drills were repeatedly done on board, when the crew face the real situation, somehow they were not able to overcome that feeling of fear. That in fact happened here with the engineering rating and as he fainted on the scene the fitter and Chief Officer had to take over the job to be done.

Without any hesitation they entered the engine room. The marine intern who was under severe shivering was lying on the basin in the control room as he saw the fitter in fire suit got scared for a short time. It was as if some one of the unknown world was coming toward to him. “Get up- We’re going, leaving this place” – that tone has relieved him and they all immediately left the control room.

Something very interesting had surprised the Chief Officer as he had entered the machine room. Smoke was there covering all over and one could not see nothing but there were almost no flame. Excessive smoke was due because of burned electrical wiring whereas almost no flames were there. He picked up right away the CO2 tube which was standing right next to him and began to extinguish the flames.

On the other hand he was following the fitter and trying to be sure that he was in life shouting behind him. After about 10-15 minutes, the fire has completely been under control and Chief Officer has managed to step out. Right about 1-2 minutes the fitter arrived safe and sound as well. The remaining cooling operations were successfully accomplished by the personnel.

As the Chief Officer had stepped out in order to get some fresh air and to find out the status of the trainee as well at the open deck the ship, day has already been getting the early morning lights. Danger has already been averted before morning lights and the three (3) chemical together with two (2) fuel tankers docked to the same pier have not noticed this unfortunate danger. So it seemed then a major disaster has almost been avoided.

The trainee could not yet get over the fear. Rewearing once again the clothes that he had them on as of yesterday evening, he picked up his suitcase which he did not even had the chance to open and made his way towards the main gate. There he happened to meet the Chief Officer. He wanted to thank him and express his intention to depart and not to be back to work on the ship any more. The officer asked him how he found the mask and then realized the importance of having this IMO Warning Labels that glow in the darkness at such occasions The intern was then sent to home by the Chief Officer.

All the repair – works necessarily to be done on the board of M/T Unlucky have been timely completed and after a few months she started to sail again. According to recent received news from the ship was that she had been attacked by pirates off the Somalia waters, and had been taken hostage. What a misfortune…

Translation By: Huseyin Sahin

An IMO Warning Label – E.E.B.D.

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