We now live in a world of ECDIS and cockpit style bridges, but even so, I recently read a report from IALA stating that the number of groundings and collisions remains unacceptably high, imposing significant cost on the maritime community, the environment and the general economy.

I also recently read a letter from a Master of a large LNG carrier, who was especially interested in the design of modern bridges. He had observed how the OOW now sits in his chair surrounded by a plethora of navigation equipment, but also when the ship is UMS, he/she is expected to monitor the machinery spaces as well as handle communications. He also hopefully has a lookout at night. The Master pointed out that when he is sitting at his console the OOW is virtually precluded from looking out of the window by being so focussed on his internal screens and, as ever, he was concerned about technology driving down the size of the crew.

Both these points, a distracted OOW, reduced crew leading to fatigue, and indeed problems with technology on the bridge are reflected in this digest. There is clearly something going wrong, whether it is the standard and style of training which forms the attitudes of modern officers who are on the bridge, the equipment being put aboard ships, the style of management from ashore or the interface between them all perhaps. e technology is here to stay and we must embrace the benefits, but we must also ensure we train our officers accordingly.

For us at Trinity House, one of the more obvious results of this is that more of our physical aids to navigation are being damaged by collision from vessels. Using AIS data, it is quite clear that ships are being taken closer to danger and that passage plans are perhaps not as cautious as they once were. Over reliance on technology seems to allow the navigator to take a few more risks than perhaps is prudent, and looking at the screens from his chair, watching the ARPA and ECDIS presentations, with all the information provided on CPA, TCPA, vectors, AIS messages, the NAVTEX churning out warnings, GMDSS doing its thing and the VHF chattering away, there is a lot going on to distract the OOW.

One of the benefits of all these electronics is that now, of course, we know exactly when and who hit our navigation buoy or indeed one of our lightvessels. And I suppose, in the long run, it is better to hit the Aid to Navigation rather than run aground, although please don’t feel encouraged to do this. My advice is that all the electronics are aids to navigation, but so too is the bridge window. Please look out of it, get out of your chair regularly and check the view out of the window. Doing so will give you the best view of the situation around you and that feeling of spacial and situational awareness that will help you make the best decisions to ensure a safe passage, backed up by the information on screen.

The clear narrative and concise advice given by the MAIB in the lessons learned from each incident in this digest are excellent and should encourage all of us to examine our own operations closely to ensure that our seafarers remain safe and that our shores remain free from environmental damage.

Author: Capt Ian McNaught, Deputy Master of Trinity House,        Source: MAIB