New Communication Phrases for Emergencies at Sea

By Agentur, Grit Buettner Deutsche Presse | Manila Bulletin, April 29, 2001 | Go to article overview
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New Communication Phrases for Emergencies at Sea


Agentur, Grit Buettner Deutsche Presse, Manila Bulletin


WARNEMUENDE, Germany - A team of linguists led by a German professor has developed a standard form of language for reporting emergencies at sea.

In future, fire alarms, attacks by pirates and other distress messages will be transmitted in English, regardless of the nationality of the vessel or crew.

The idea is to ensure speedy assistance for vessels in distress and greater safety for their crews and rescue services.

In March, there was widespread oil pollution in Baltic Sea after a freighter carrying sugar was in collision with the tanker Baltic Carrier. Technical problems, human error and communications difficulties contributed to the disaster.

To reduce the risks arising from maritime accidents and other incidents, the Standard Marine Communication Phrases will be introduced on all ships from this summer on.

English has been the recognized language of the shipping trade for more than two centuries. But there have often been problems when non- native speakers are involved.

On some of today's ships the multinational crews speak up to 12 different languages and are only able to make themselves fully understood with the help of sign language.

On such ships it's often only the captain, and possibly one of his senior officers who is fluent in English.

"If communications are problematic and danger is looming, then a safety mechanism is necessary," says Professor Peter Trenkner, who helped standardize the communication phrases.

"In times of crisis, it can be a life-saver, that all too many seamen are urgently in need of," says Trenkner, who is based in the German Baltic Sea port of Warnemuende.

Eight of 10 maritime accidents involving ships occur as a result of human error.

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