Multiple vessel collisions this month, including one fatal strike, highlight the need for better bridge technology for identifying moving navigation hazards.
While any collision underscores the importance of vigilant and observant officers of the watch, they also reveal human limitations and the need for better safety technology.
Currently, watchkeepers are aided in their visual scanning by radar, automatic identification system information and electronic charts for navigation.
A few examples from recent weeks show that the status quo is not good enough.
On 4 August, an ANL container ship and Gasmare-managed LPG tanker King Arthur collided south of Gibraltar, which seriously damaged both ships.
An investigation into the cause is underway. Although it will take months before an accident report is published, I fully expect to see findings that include poor situational awareness on both bridges and some fault indicating mechanical problems, failures within bridge processesor, more likely, both.
There were also three incidents within a single week in August that involved dry cargo ships and a tanker striking smaller vessels.
Crude oil tanker Desh Shaktih it a fishing boat off southwest India, killing 12 fishermen; container ship Cecilie Maerskcrashed into a 16 m fishing boat near Reunion; and cargo ship Lady Nola struck a yacht in the English Channel.
These incidents all offer further demonstration of the fundamental issues that navigators have in trying to detect and avoid moving hazards – particularly small boats.
Fortunately, digital technologies designed to identify hazards and offer early collision warnings are on the way. These systems represent the tools navigators need to prevent collisions, fatalities and pollution threats, and they cannot arrive quickly enough.
Therefore, ship operators must invest in radar that can detect small vessels, intelligent awareness and smart collision avoidance technologythat is being unveiled this year.
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