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Thursday, 31 August 2017

Agencies = a center for national expert competence?

The Swedish government yesterday announced the moving of seven agencies from Stockholm to smaller cities. The main reason for this is to reduce the focus on Stockholm and include all of Sweden in the state affairs. I don’t mind this ambition. However, for me, it seems obvious that the availability of competence should be the first principle of government agency location. It takes both relevant education and experience to understand an area of interest for a government agency, such as the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. Therefore, the two criteria that must be fulfilled when moving an agency is that the new location has a university with an internationally renowned education in the area of focus and a large stock of professionals working within the area of focus.
For example, the Swedish Transport Agency has, among other departments, its Civil Aviation and Maritime Department located in Norrköping since many years. However, maritime knowledge is in Sweden mainly located in Gothenburg, Stockholm and Kalmar and aviation knowledge mainly in Stockholm and Linköping. The agency is the one defining the quality of the Swedish transport system and the Civil Aviation and Maritime Department among other things formulate regulations and analyze accidents and near-misses. This is, of course, important tasks and demands both method knowledge and knowledge about the aviation and maritime industry. A couple of years ago I applied for a job at the Civil Aviation and Maritime Department. A job I think is important and sounded like fun, but, to be honest, I wasn’t interested to move for it. However, I didn’t need to consider moving because I was “by far the most suitable applicant and therefore over qualified”. That said more about the agencies view on their competence needs than what it said about me (I’m no rock star safety expert, I’m only a regular safety interested guy).
Working with competence within the Swedish government system, I’ve also learned that very few agencies have a career path for experts, i.e., being an expert does not pay off.
I don’t like the notion that everybody can do everything, I like the idea of professions and matching competence (education and experience) with the task. I’ve had so many inspiring talks with real experts ranging from stainless steel welders to professors in philosophy. I would like that the Swedish government agencies were environments for experts in the respective fields. It’s a matter of quality.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The fish Pacu, or Ball-cutter, found in Swedish Waters

True story, but the news does not really affect the risk at sea in Swedish waters, not even on/in Motala ström:
A close relative to the Piranha, the Pacu, has now been found in Swedish waters reports Swedish public television. The fish was caught by a group of anglers in Motala ström in southern Sweden. The probable cause is that the fish is released aquarium fish.
The Pacu has been reported to bite of parts of male swimmers’ scrotums and are therefore sometimes called Ball-cutters.

(A true story is not always relevant)

US Navy collisions in Asian waters: No, it is not a result of cyber attacks

In June this year the United States Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with MV ACX Crystal, a Philippine-flagged container ship, and in August, the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker. Both of the collisions happened in Asian waters and both destroyers are from the US’s 7th fleet. The June collision killed seven sailors, and the fatalities from the latest collision could be at least as many.
Media and experts point out differences between the two collisions and the most important is that USS John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft and USS Fitzgerald to her starboard side. The difference indicates that USS John S. McCain had right of way, but not USS Fitzgerald. The other mentioned difference is that the latest collision happened in the Strait of Singapore, which is one of the business waters in the world. Without the prior collision, these differences may have led to that the consequences on the US navy organization after the August incident could have been limited, but the liability at sea is not as easy as to identify right of way. However, two collisions will always spark a discussion about systematic safety issues.
One such systematic cause put forward is that the collisions could be a result of cyber-attacks on the ships’ GPS system. I cannot rule out that the US ships’ GPS systems are hacked, but suggesting that it has anything to do with these collisions seems far-fetched. A combination of stubbornness and “it-usually-works-out” thinking is much more plausible.
In May 2016 the Swedish Navy vessel HMS Carlskrona collided with the Aspö ferry. These are smaller ships and the consequences were minor. However, similar to USS John S. McCain HMS, Carlskrona sustained damage to her port side aft indicating that she had right of way. The collision was investigated by the Swedish police. The investigation found that a major contributing factor to the collision was that the autopilot on the ferry did not release control as supposed to and therefore reduced the possibility for the ferry to avoid the collision. The criminal investigation was therefore dismissed without any actions. This although these collisions most probably also included a combination of stubbornness and “it-usually-works-out” thinking onboard both vessels. A collision, therefore, does not need to lead to substantial changes. However, it helps if the consequences are small and if it is a singular event.