‘As from tomorrow, I want you to start coming to the ECR for toolbox talk, do you have a problem with that?’ That’s the new Chief Engineer. He joined the vessel a day before. He didn’t see me during the toolbox talk in the morning and he got angry hence his order for me to come to Engine Control Room (ECR) for toolbox talk. Hearing him speak this way, I was baffled.
As a Gas Engineer on a large LNG carrier with a small department, the Cargo Engineering Department, which I manage with two ratings as subordinates, I worked with the Chief Officer to ensure the continuous reliability of the cargo equipment and deck machineries. I was responsible to the Chief Engineer on cargo and deck machineries and equipment. Most of them were located on deck and it is a recommended practice that toolbox talk be held as close as possible to the work site hence the use of Cargo Control Room (CCR).
Growing up in the career, Gas Engineers have always held toolbox talk in the CCR with their subordinates. I have no single reference to a Gas Engineer having toolbox talk in the ECR with the engine room crew. Even on that particular ship, the status quo was the same because the Gas Engineer I relieved was using the CCR for toolbox talk. So the Chief Engineer’s command as it was, was a challenge of the industry best practice and existing onboard custom.
In all, the Chief Engineers order seems to be borne out of desire to be in control rather than reasoning. In all however, my spirit overruled my mouth. I responded ‘I don’t have a problem but I have never seen Gas Engineer coming to ECR for toolbox talk. Nonetheless, I’ll do anything you want’. So, I started joining the Engineering Department for toolbox talk in the ER with my fitters the following day.
Few weeks after, the SMT had a meeting to review Work and Risk Assessment Planning (WRAP) of the vessel. The meeting was chaired by the Chief Engineer. It was time for suggestion that could improve the effectiveness of our toolbox talk. I directed the attention of everyone present to the implication of Cargo Engineering Department having toolbox talk together with Engineering Department.
During toolbox talk, one Learning from Incident (LFI) is always discussed base on the job for the day so that an awareness is raised of the possible hazards base on past incident. However after the two departments began having toolbox talk together, one department was missing out on the LFIs being discussed as it may not relate to their job for the day. Also the idea of discussing two LFIs, one for each department, equals longer time for toolbox talk. Hence I suggested that the two departments have their toolbox talk separately.
The Chief Engineer realized that his earlier decision had reduced the effectiveness of the safety culture onboard. To my utter amazement, the same man that had insisted on having toolbox talk responded ‘if that’s what you want, no problem, you can start having your TBT in CCR.’ I was dazed.
Couple of lesson stuck with me from that day.
Firstly, I could have argued my point with him on the first day but it won’t have changed anything. On the other hand, I would have been labeled a rebel. Being our first encounter together, that would have given him a bad impression of me and create a negative bias for his subsequent appraisal of me.
Secondly, I learnt there is a right time and a right place for certain action. It may be the right thing to say but not the right time and vice versa. Like golden apples in silver settings, so is a word spoken at the right time Pro. 25:11 GW. Wow! Discernment is vital in life.
A wise man once said that submission is not stupidity or docility but patiently taking control. Yielding to the Chief Engineer from the outset wasn’t a sign of weakness, even when I think I have reasons not to. However with time, I regained control. It is better to be gentle and patient than to be proud and impatient. Ecc. 7:8b ERV. Patience is vital in life.
Submission to higher authority is not easy when some decisions are not fair to us but God insists that we submit. He says ‘vengeance is mine’. When we revolt or rebel, we take what is not ours- vengeance – into our hands. More so when we revolt, we do not revolt against the appointed authority but against God because all authorities came to be by his permission. More so, if you are a believer, you are an ambassador for Christ and when you disobey higher authority, you misrepresent Christ and causes people to blaspheme against his name.
Be willing to serve the people who have authority in this world. Do this for the Lord. Obey the king, the highest authority. And obey the leaders who are sent by the king. They are sent to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do good. When you do good, you stop ignorant people from saying foolish things about you. This is what God wants. 1Pet 2:13-15 ERV
Discernment, patience and submission (humility) to authority are virtues a seafarer will need for a successful and peaceful career at sea. It is through the help of the Holy Spirit that a man demonstrates these qualities. The Holy Spirit is the gift of Jesus Christ to everyone who accepts Him as his Lord and Saviour. The same Jesus is extending an invitation to you today. Ask Him to come into your life and be your Lord and Saviour.
Congratulations to you if you have just made this decision. Jesus now lives in you.
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Written by Joshua Oyetunde
Joshua Oyetunde is the national coordinator of NFCS, a seaman and a minster of the gospel in word and music.