“User-friendly” is a much-abused term, but it has real meaning in the context of shipboard technical manuals and maritime safety, according to the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS).IACS Permanent Secretary Robin Bradley says: “Poorly produced manuals with ambiguous content, together with technical materials presented in languages which cannot be understood by those on board, have contributed to serious accidents and ‘near misses’. This is why IACS has taken a new initiative. We have produced clear guidance on how shipboard technical manuals should be written.”
The guidance – Recommendation 71 ‘Guide for the development of Shipboard Technical Manuals’– is available on the IACS Web site (www.iacs.org.uk), under ‘Technical’. The IACS guidance deals with the form, content, structure and presentation (including materials in electronic format). It provides a template for technical authors. The guidelines pay particular attention to “warnings and cautions” and procedures in the event of malfunctions and faults.
The dangers caused by inadequate shipboard technical manuals are illustrated by a recent accident, which involved a ferry that struck a quay, injuring a substantial number of passengers and crew. The subsequent flag Administration report stated that control of the port controllable pitch propeller had been lost as the vessel entered port. The text of the Maintenance and Operations Manual for the vessel’s controllable pitch propellers was in a language that reflected the ship’s original service. None of the vessel’s current team of engineers understood that language. In addition, the manual did not contain a fault diagnosis and trouble-shooting section.