Google analytics

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Smoking on a ship.

RFA Fort George CH

Ten years ago I served on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ship “Fort George”. This type of vessel was configured to carry a cargo of ammunition, fuels which included diesel and aviation spirit (Avcat), and dry stores. There was no smoking allowed on the open decks for the obvious reason that there could be pockets of inflammable gases.

That last bit always had me slightly bemused as the ship’s original fit was to have included a vertical launch anti air, missile system situated in the middle of the ship (The silo is still there, they just ran out of money). Imagine firing a metre long projectile with a white hot tail of incandescent gas smack bang through the ship’s gas envelope. If you were the enemy you’d only need to pretend to attack. Your target would self destruct for you.

I digress.The then smoking rules allowed you to smoke anywhere inside the Accommodation, Office areas, the Bridge and the MCR (Machinery Control Room). 

Slowly but insidiously change happened. Firstly smoking in multiple occupancy offices were banned. Next came a ban on smoking in alleyways, and the MCR and the Bridge. After that smoking in bars was outlawed if food was served. FFS, that was snuck in because we had packets of crisps on sale.

And finally we were not allowed to smoke in our own cabins in case the steward sued over passive smoking. (Yes, Officers still had stewards). That was the final straw for me. I could have worked on, but instead I thought Sod you and retired. (Which I don’t regret as the march of regulation was bordering on the farcical).

The point of this post is, If you remember my first paragraph about no smoking on deck, you’ll be as bemused as me that the only place where smoking is allowed now, is a designated area on the open deck.

What really pisses me off is that in all the conflicts I’ve been involved in, (Aden, the Falklands, Gulf wars one and two and Angola) passive smoking would be the last thing on anyone’s mind.

But Hey, we live in a world of irrational fear.

In a nut shell political correctness trumps health and safety.

*Lights up ciggy*


  1. If you thought the aim was the end of war by Health and Safety proclamation at least we could laugh at the naivety. As it is I can't help but feel that if these baccy regs had applied in 1982 the captain of the Sheffield would have been fined for destruction of the No Smoking signs.

    Hey, what the fuck are the submariners supposed to do? They get waterproof fags or what?

  2. Been bloody glad to see you RFA lads on more than one occassion ...

    Back in the days of "Olna", "Tide Spring", "Grey Rover" et al ...

    Always good to do a "Razz" & get the mailies .. ;)

  3. I go even further back. I can still remember the original Wave and Fort classes. I think?

  4. I remember "Fort Austin" & "Fort Grange" .. ;)

  5. I used to work for an oil major on crude and LPG tankers. Of course, we always had the no smoking outside rule in place because we were carrying a few million barrels of hydrocarbons (inerted though so still as much chance of causing an explosion as finding an honest politician).

    Like you, we saw the gradual creep of no smoking rules to the point where the only place one could smoke onboard the last vessel I sailed on was what had been a small storage locker approx 6ft by 6ft with a bare minimum of ventilation.

    This on a vessel where 12 of us smoked including the entire galley department. Now here was the kicker, the galley department weren't allowed to clean the ashtrays because of a "risk of harm due to passive smoking." The chief mate assigned the job to me for some reason because I was the only officer to smoke.

    Luckily, none of the company vessels were British flagged. Know a few lads whose company outright banned smoking onboard right in the middle of their four month trip. Possession of tobacco was an instant dismissal offence.

    I have since moved to a small company working on a coastal survey vessel. British flagged, but all 6 of us smoke. I once again enjoy a bridge watch sitting in the chair chain smoking.


Say what you like. I try to reply. Comments are not moderated. The author of this blog is not liable for any defamatory or illegal comments.