Web Alert: Over reliance on technology a regular feature of navigation claims

News & Insights 18 April 2016


In recent years the changing attitude amongst seafarers to technology has been evidenced by the large number of accidents caused by an overreliance on technology or the lack of healthy scepticism in its use

In recent years the changing attitude amongst seafarers to technology has been evidenced by the large number of accidents caused by an overreliance on technology or the lack of healthy scepticism in its use. At its introduction GNSS or GPS as it was known then, was treated with significant suspicion by deck officers.  As time has progressed and the technology evolved, trust in the use of GNSS has been replaced with something akin to blind faith by some users. Unfortunately at The Standard Club we have seen numerous claims where this ethos was observable and which was normally accompanied by the following behaviours:

  • Failure to regularly employ parallel indexing techniques
  • Reliance on GNSS as the sole position fixing technique regardless of the presence of landmarks/features
  • Failure to take compass bearings of an approaching vessel to confirm the validity of ARPA information
  • Failure to conduct regular compass checks using a transit or azimuth to confirm the validity of the gyro compass
  • Failure to work ‘from the window to the radar’ when watch keeping
  • Transferring GNSS positions from ECDIS to the paper chart

Deck officers today have access to unprecedented levels of navigational information, but they must seek to achieve balance in how they use it. At The Standard Club we promote the intelligent use of navigation aids.  By intelligent we refer to the practice whereby navigation aids are used to their full potential but are considered only a single weapon in the armory of a deck officer. A practical example of this approach would be the use of ECDIS. Whilst ECDIS is an excellent tool for situational awareness and decision making, deck officers should always take steps to confirm the validity of its information using a secondary, independent means such as a radar image overlay, or the plotting of a manual fix on the ECDIS.

It is of course left up to the companies themselves to determine how often these additional checks should be conducted and by which means. But the principle in each case will be the same: ‘the safety of the vessel’s navigation should never solely rely on a single navigation aid’.

Marine Electronics & Communications magazine recently featured an article entitled ‘Over-reliance on bridge technology causes ship accidents’ (see link on the righ) which discussed this issue and the problem of deck officers being distracted from the business of watch keeping by alarms associated with technology. The article included advice from the deputy master of the General Lighthouse Authority, Trinity house on ways to prevent collisions at sea and case studies on distraction provided by the MAIB. 
 

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