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Supervisory definitions

Learn the differences between general and direct supervision

The concept of direct and general supervision is based on the supervisor being able to step in, or take action, to stop an unsafe situation. It is important for determining whether crew should hold a General Purpose Hand certificate of competency (GPH CoC).

Definitions for direct and general supervision are provided in Marine Order 505.

Direct supervision

 Direct supervision means that the person being supervised is frequently within sight and hearing of the supervisor.

In a practical sense, this means that the supervisor can direct and oversee the carrying out of tasks by the crew member and monitor their progress with a task. The supervisor is responsible for providing training, guidance and advice to ensure all tasks are carried out safely, in accordance with the safety management system (SMS), and any shortcomings are managed appropriately as required under s6(12), Schedule 1 of Marine Order 504 (Certificates of operation and operation requirements). The crew member must frequently be within sight and hearing of the supervisor.

General supervision

General supervision means that the person being supervised receives instruction and direction on tasks, and recurrent personal contact from the supervisor, but is not frequently attended by the supervisor. 

This means that the crew member receives training, guidance and advice to ensure all tasks are carried out safely but is not under the constant supervision of the supervisor. Supervisors are still responsible for providing training, guidance and advice in accordance with the SMS, ensuring that any shortcomings are managed appropriately as required under s6(12), Schedule 1 of Marine Order 504. However, the supervisor is required to maintain regular personal contact with the crew member but does not have to be frequently within sight and hearing.

How to determine if direct or general supervision is appropriate

It is up to owners and masters to ensure that they assess the level of supervision provided to their crew in relation to their level of competency. This should be captured in writing and is an essential part of ensuring the owner and master meet the appropriate crewing requirements of s6, Schedule 1 of Marine Order 504.

When assessing whether crew should hold a General Purpose Hand certificate of competency owners and masters must consider and document the following within their SMS:

  • whether or not the crew member is responsible for engine and deck duties
  • the level of supervision provided to the crew member, and the level of risk associated with each task being carried out
  • whether the method of supervision and frequency is adequate for the tasks undertaken.

For example, a crew member working mooring lines, or conducting engine room rounds, who is not directly supervised (within line of sight and hearing of their supervisor) should probably hold a General Purpose Hand certificate of competency.

Vessel owners and masters should record how they have determined the level of supervision required for a General Purpose Hand or uncertified crew. This should be captured in the SMS, and as a minimum include the following information.

  • Risk assessment - owners and masters should consider factors such as:
    • type of tasks being undertaken by the crew member – remember, the GPH CoC is only necessary when undertaking deck and engine tasks, without direct supervision
    • vessel configuration with regards to the level of supervision that can be provided
    • the functions/duties of nominated supervisor and crew member and the ability to communicate
    • the safety risks associated with the work carried out by crew members who may have received no training.
  • Emergency preparedness - assigning crew members to an emergency station and responsibilities in the event of an emergency.

When assessing whether crew should hold a General Purpose Hand certificate, owners and masters must consider and document the following within their SMS:

  • the crew member’s engine and deck duties.
  • the level of supervision provided to the crew member, noting the level of risk associated with each task being carried out (for example a crew member who is working beyond line of sight or hearing conducting operations while the master or supervisor is engaged in their duties)
  • whether the method of supervision and frequency is adequate for the tasks undertaken.

Who can supervise a crew member?

The level of supervision provided to uncertified crew members should be documented in the SMS. 

Supervisor

A person can only supervise a crew member if they are appropriately certified themselves (see s65-67 of the National Law) and have demonstrated experience and knowledge of the tasks being undertaken.

The supervisor must have sufficient control over the tasks being undertaken to ensure they are being carried out safely, to the standard expected and in accordance with the SMS.

Where supervising multiple crew members, consideration must be given to how many people can reasonably be supervised at any given time, the levels of experience of the crew members under supervision, risk assessment of tasks being undertaken and the different tasks they may be simultaneously be undertaking.

Examples to get you thinking

Anchoring scenario 

Two different vessels will be leaving an anchorage and the GPH on each vessel will need to set up the bow, weigh anchor, and stow gear on completion. One is a small (10m) single level work vessel with an aft console and a forward capstan winch, while the other is a large (26m) multi-level passenger (tourist) vessel with an hydraulic windlass and chain locker set up on the bow. The master of the work vessel is at the helm/console while the master of the passenger vessel is in the bridge on an upper level. 

What defines direct versus general supervision of the GPHs on board these two very different vessels?

Direct supervision

The work vessel is small, so small that the GPH on board is always under the direct supervision of the master while working. The master is at the helm which is only a few metres from the anchoring workstation and can easily communicate verbally with the GPH and intervene to prevent a risk to safety or engage directly in an emergency situation. In this situation the GPH is directly supervised at all times and is not required to hold a formal GPH certificate. This should also be detailed in the vessel’s SMS and risk assessment.

Direct supervision

The passenger vessel is large enough that it has several qualified crew members on board at any given time. The master delegates the responsibility of supervising anchoring operations on the bow to the 1st mate, who holds a master <24m certificate. The 1st mate is therefore responsible for directly supervising the GPH’s activities whilst working the anchoring system, and can easily communicate verbally with the GPH and intervene to prevent a risk to safety or an emergency situation. In this situation the GPH is also not required to hold a formal GPH certificate as they are under direct supervision of the 1st mate. This arrangement should be detailed in the vessel’s SMS and risk assessment.

General supervision 

On the same passenger vessel, the GPH is expected to work the bow area and anchoring equipment on their own, and without the supervision of the 1st mate. In this case, the size and structural arrangements of the vessel mean that the master cannot communicate verbally or observe all the work the GPH will be doing during anchoring operations. The master may occasionally check on them by sight when possible or ask them to conduct their tasks via handheld radio or come to the wheelhouse or bridge to discuss work. They rely on hand signals and radio contact for all other communications. This is known as general supervision, and it is necessary for the GPH to be able to work independently, understand the hazards and risks, and be competent in all tasks associated with their role in the anchoring process. In this situation the GPH is required to hold a formal GPH certificate as they are under general supervision only. This should be detailed in the vessel’s SMS and risk assessment.

Mooring scenario

The same two vessels will be securing alongside a wharf and the GPH on each vessel will need to undertake mooring duties such as readying lines, passing lines ashore, fendering the vessel, and securing lines to bollards or cleats. 

Direct supervision

On the small work vessel, the GPH is always under direct supervision while working on board. The master is only a few metres from the bollard, cleat and post fittings on board and can easily communicate verbally with the GPH and intervene to prevent a risk to safety or engage directly in an emergency if required to do so. In this situation the GPH is not required to hold a formal GPH certificate as they are under direct supervision. This should  be detailed in the vessel’s SMS and risk assessment.

Direct supervision

On the passenger vessel the master cannot easily communicate with the GPH who is working on deck, so the master has delegated the supervisory responsibility for the GPH to the 1st mate. The 1st mate, who holds a master <24m certificate, is responsible mooring operations on deck, which involves directly supervising the GPH’s activities. The 1st mate is near enough to the GPH at all times and, and can communicate verbally with the GPH to potentially intervene to prevent a risk to safety or engage directly in an emergency if required to do so. In this situation the GPH is also not required to hold a formal GPH certificate as they are under direct supervision by the 1st mate. This arrangement should be detailed in the vessel’s SMS and risk assessment.

General supervision 

On the same passenger vessel, the master chooses not to delegate the supervisory responsibility to the 1st mate, but rather expects the GPH to work the deck without direct supervision. In this case, the size and structural arrangements of the vessel mean the master cannot communicate verbally or observe all the work the GPH is doing on board. As with the anchoring example, without a delegated supervisor for the GPH, the GPH must understand the hazards, risks and be competent in all tasks associated with their role in the mooring process. In this situation the GPH is working under ‘general supervision, and should be appropriately trained and hold a formal GPH certificate of competency. This should be detailed in the vessel’s SMS and risk assessment.

Last updated: 

Thursday 29 February 2024