10/27/2016: Safety alert – Alarm systems

The Coast Guard issued safety alert 16-16 to remind mariners of the potential dangers that can occur when alarm systems are deliberately ignored.

Recently in the Pacific Northwest, Coast Guard marine inspectors experienced two different circumstances involving the alarm and control system of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries steering gears onboard relatively new vessels. Although neither event resulted in a marine casualty, they serve as a reminder to the potentially dangerous results that may occur when an alarm system is deliberately ignored. A false sense of operational safety develops when crewmembers continually silence what they consider to be a “nuisance alarm,” enabling a false perception of normalcy to develop.

Inspectors observed on two vessels that repetitive alarms occurred every time crewmembers performed steering tests that attempted to move the rudder through its range of motion. The alarms indicated that “hydraulic lock” events had occurred. Each time, the alarm was simply acknowledged by the crew and the steering gear adequately moved the rudder. However, no further investigation was conducted to identify the cause of the alarm.

As the result of these events, the Coast Guard strongly recommends that owner and operators ensure the following:

  • Address the management of nuisance alarms in Safety Management Systems and require immediate correction of their specific causes; and
  • Include strict prohibitions against the pinning or securing of alarm acknowledgment buttons and switches. Such actions should be deemed as unacceptable corrective measures as they have contributed to serious marine casualties in the past.


For additional details, please view the entire safety alert.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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