Fisher Maritime's Fairleads

'Lessons Learned' Strategies & Ideas for the Marine Industry

Color Coded Features – The Vanishing Information

During the conversion of a vessel, a shipyard installed incorrect fire-rated bulkheads in several of the vessel’s spaces, delaying the issuance of the flag-state Certificate of Inspection, as well as being costly to both parties. Fisher Maritime’s analysis of the underlying facts revealed that the cause of the error was found to be vanishing information.

It was learned that the fire boundary plans supplied to the shipyard by the owner utilized different colors to delineate the different fire ratings required in several locations. The shipyard’s project management office had photocopied the drawings in black-and-white, sending those copies to the purchasing and production departments. With all the fire boundaries now appearing as the same gray, the shipyard’s subsequent use of these black-and-white reproductions resulted in a single (lower) fire-rating of bulkheads being installed throughout.  This confusion in fire ratings was not discovered until well after the bulkheads and other outfitting had been installed, leading to extra costs and delays to effect a correction.

There is a lesson to be learned from this experience. With the availability of low-cost color printers, and the ease of using different colors in drawings, charts and tables, the use of color-coded information appears to be a means of emphasizing the needed differentiations. But this is appropriate only when viewing the originals of those drawings, charts and tables. As soon as black-and-white copies are made, that differentiating information vanishes. Accordingly, when color-coded information is presented, consider sending it back to its authors and asking for revisions to incorporate a differentiation of features that will survive black-and- white copying. This might mean using different forms of lines, gradients, fill patterns, or more extensive word-labeling. For those cases where certain constraints limit the application of these suggestions, it may be appropriate to include a highly visible notation stating that the document must be reproduced in color to ensure clarity.

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