Is Technology A Hindrance For Safe Navigation?


MAIB Reports Technology As Primary Cause For Ship Accidents

MAIB has reported that the distraction of the crew by the technology appears to be the main cause for the recent maritime accidents.


The latest digest of ship accidents and incidents from the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation(MAIB) Branch has revealed that a number of accidents involving cargo vessels, tankers and passenger ships that have grounded or collided while the officer of the watch was distracted by technology.

MAIB reports that:

  • It continues to encourage officers to take more notice of the view from the bridge window
  • The officers should take precautionary measures and anticipate ‘What can go wrong?’
  • Bridge personnel should reconsider actions, such as a course change, before implementing them to prevent accidents.

Ian McNaught, deputy master of the General Lighthouse Authority, Trinity House, highlighted that:

  • Technology had led to seafarers taking less cautious routes, leading to more groundings and collisions.
  • Officers of the watch can become distracted by VHF communications and safety and navigation messages, or too reliant on radar, ecdis, AIS, etc.

In his report he mentions that: “It is quite clear that ships are being taken closer to danger, and that passage plans are not as cautious as they once were.”

He motivates the seafarers to look out of the window to prevent ships from colliding with Trinity House’s aids to navigation and light vessels, as well as other ships.  Adding to it he said: “Doing so will give them the best view of the situation around the ship, and that feeling of spatial and situational awareness that will help them make the best decisions to ensure a safe passage, backed up by the information on screen.”

Examples of such accidents:

  • A passenger vessel struck a bridge at eight knots in the UK because the officer of the watch was distracted listening to a VHF radio report on a pier closure.  He failed to notice the vessel had veered towards the bridge, and the crew were unable to warn the passengers, causing injuries to people on board.
  • A tanker grounded on a sandbank during a coastal passage because of errors in positioning the vessel.  This led to the navigator missing course changes and a strong tidal stream driving the ship onto the sand bar.  In another case, a cargo vessel grounded on a European beach when the master lost control of the vessel and struck a berth.

But still, the ship operators have not learnt lessons from past accidents, and the same issues continue.  Also, the bridge technology is misused and can become a hindrance to safe navigation.

Hence, it is advised that the bridge officers should not get distracted by communications equipment and should continue looking out of the window, as well as checking navigation screens.  These appropriate measures can prevent the future maritime accidents and continue a safe navigation!

Source: GOV


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