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the biggest cause leading to accidents at sea Nowadays is the loosing of our reality. source: Google
Captain Frank Suma

7 Oct 2017| 11:12 (GMT+1)



Unfortunately nowadays training centers are more concentrated in teaching how to watch on a monitor and following a read line than in watching outside the window and this is leading in the increasing of the accidents at sea!!! 

It is well known that human errors frequently cause accidents at sea. It is also known that accidents due to human error are increasing. To understand more about this we must learn about how humans function; our short comings as well as our advantages. Technologically, the maritime business has shown impressive development over the past decades, including increases in thesize of ships, in speed, in the number of passengers and volumes of goods.

The technology seems to be up to date– but are we? 

Addressing the human side ofshipping must be the most effective approach for increasing safety. Fortunately, such an approach is not burdened by any significant economical investments. It is relatively cheap –compared to other costs in this business– to select mariners carefully, to trainand develop them and to build strong,professional and safety-minded teams.It could be worthwhile to look upon humans as “modules” in a sociotechnologicalsystem and to identify some of thecapacities and drawbacks of these “modules”in order to understand more. 

Complacency and Lack of Situation Awareness We might start with the collision in the English Channel in 2002, where the Kariba made a steep starboard turn and collided with the container vessel Tricolor.The fact that the Kariba went out of her way to ram the Tricolor amidships and sink her was a disastrous human error, as were the following two collisions with the wreck by other ships. The subsequent and numerous near misses are also significant. In spite of all possible precautions and extensive series of warning systems by every possible means, hundreds of mariners on numerous ships’ bridges were involved at close quarters, each and every one as a result of human error. Besides other sensitive domains of human error, such as team situation awareness, leadership,communication, cooperation and effects of stress, this accident can serve as an illustration of two ofour other human shortcomings:

Lack of Situation Awareness and Complacency. Situation Awareness means“knowing what isgoing on around you”Situation awareness is the ability to reada situation correctly and anticipate how itmight develop.It is dependent on capacities such as attention,perception, memory, anticipation and decision-making and therefore subject to individual differences. For a mariner, capacities like these are particularly essential . Without proper situation awareness, one might run into a well buoyed wreck ormake a steep turn and unknowingly collide with another overtaking vessel. Tests of suitability would benefit the maritime industry Most people accept the fact that we humans differ and that the differences manifest themselves in different behaviour.

We are not equally talented; we have different character traits as well as different sets of capacities. Habitually attentive individuals with undistorted,objective perception, with effective working memory and decision-making capacity constitute thebest choice as operators of a ship, or for that matter,for being in charge of any other safety-critical transport system.All knowledge about situation awareness supports the idea of carefully selecting those individuals responsible for the safe journey of a vessel. The methods for accomplishing such a selection exist in the form of psychological tests, or a combination of tests and ship simulators for those who are already trained. Using such methods makes it possible to rule out those individuals who have difficulties in maintaining a reliable Accidents due to Human Error are increasing in the Maritime Industry The technology s ems to be up to date– but are we? level of situation awareness. As in the case of civil aviation,the maritime business would also benefit fromtests of suitability, and the impact of human error at sea could be dramatically reduced.

The Situation Awareness was out of touch with reality The maritime industry should avoid placing ships inthe hands of individuals with difficulties in maintaining good situation awareness, i.e. people who havean inadequate capacity for simultaneous tasks, those who are easily distracted or who are disorganised, habituallyabsent-minded people, individuals who areeasily bored, those with psychological problems,individuals lacking energy ,habitually lazy individuals,nervous people,easily stressed people as well as individuals who overestimate themselves. This accident investigation (Kariba/Tricolor) concluded that the situation awareness on the various bridges “was out of touch with reality” and that many mariners were unable to grasp the situation inits entirety, to prevent a close-quarters situation fromdeveloping, let alone get out of one.

The commission also mentioned “sloppy watch-keeping” as a contributing cause. Of course no one is sloppy or careless ormakes human errors on purpose, but we might understand more about this by looking at an unfortunate drawback of experience. Complacency – a state of mind. Most people would agree that the more experienced aperson is, the better and safer that person’s performance.This is, however, not a universal truth. Experience might make a person safer, but it is not inevitably so.We normally define experience as the length of time a person has been at sea, but we should also emphasise what sort of experience. The very substance ofa person’s experience. Accidents and critical incidents do not occur regularly in most officers’ lives and one sided experiences may therefore insidiously lull an officer into a false sense of safety, because our experience might tell us that the job is routine-like and foreseeable.Completing numerous uneventful watches mightbring the illusion that there is not a great presence of risk in shipping and the psychological conclusion istherefore that it is safe. An illusionary feeling we call“complacency” might build up. No one chooses to be complacent

Complacency is an unconcerned attitude, where individuals behave and think in a routine-like mode,anticipating an ordinary development of the present situation. Complacency has a tendency to grow in situations where the frequency of novel events is low,while we keep vigilant and alert in situations wherethe frequency of new events is high. This is in line with the general observation that our mental system needs continuous stimulation from changes in the environment to maintain alertness. No one chooses to be complacent; it is a feelingthat imperceptibly  might affect even normally responsible and judicious mariners,making them ill-prepared to meet challenging,unusual or unexpected situations.

Complacency impairs our situation awareness, which might lead tothat we become surprised by changes in the environment and that we fail to understand, act too late ornot at all.Means to counteract complacency There are means to counter act complacency, one of which is to become aware of it. The reason for this seemingly trivial step is that it is impossible to gain control over something that is not conscious. Therefore we have to label it, make ourselves aware of it and to constantly remind ourselves of it as a negativeside-effect of routine and length of experience. Human beings are not perfectly designed anddo not function as straight and logically as computers.We humans are sometimes victims of our own dynamic mental processes and human functioning follows a logic of its own. We are not able to change our basic condition, but we can select appropriate personalities for sensitive tasks and we can organise sothat errors stand a chance to be detected before they materialise into accidents. 

And all these behaviour are happening because we are fully trusting the technologies and overloaded by all useless procedures and checklists that are distracting our concentration and overload our brain.  

Hopefully the Navy has changed this mentality and going back to the traditional systems in view also of the many collision accidents involving their warships

"Raise your hand if you have ever determined your location on the planet using the stars," Lt. Daniel Stayton tells his class at the U.S. naval Academy.A young officer halfheartedly puts up her hand. Another wavers. The rest of the class of 20 midshipmen sits stone-faced.This is the challenge facing the U.S. Navy as it tries to bring back celestial navigation. The Navy stopped training its service members to navigate by the stars about a decade ago, focusing instead on electronic navigational systems. But fears about the security of the Global Positioning System and a desire to return to the basics of naval training are pushing the fleet back toward this ancient method of finding a course across open water.

Navigation by the stars dates back millennia. The Ancient Polynesians used stars and constellations to help guide their outrigger canoes across thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean. And right up until the mid-20th century, navigation on the sea was usually done by looking at the heavens.That changed in the late 1970s, when the military began launching GPS satellites. The satellite system provided a far more accurate fix than the stars could. In 2000, the U.S. Navy began phasing out sextants and charts in favor of computers.

Rear Adm. Michael White, who heads the Navy's training, says the change in curriculum was driven by the need to bring young officers up to speed on the Navy's equivalent of Googlemaps, called the Voyage Management System. It uses GPS, radar and other tools to precisely track a ship's position and course across the ocean. The system is complex and, "we don't have infinite training time available," White says.Lt. Daniel Stayton demonstrates how to use a sextant before a class of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy.Geoff Brumfiel/NPRSo, why return now to the old ways? The Navy and other branches of the U.S. military are becoming increasingly concerned, in part, that they may be overly reliant on GPS. "We use it to synchronize all military operations, we use it to navigate everywhere — it's just something the U.S. military can't live without," says Brian Weeden, a former Air Force officer now with the Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit that studies security issues in outer space. In a big war, the GPS satellites could be shot down. Or, more likely, their signal could be jammed or hacked.

Already, jamming has become more common, Weeden says. "You can buy a lot of GPS jammers off the Internet," he says. "A lot of those are made by Russia."He thinks the Russians probably have systems to jam the special signals the military uses as well. And China may be developing similar capabilities.White, who heads the Navy's training, says there is also a desire to get back to basics. Over the past decade, electronic navigation systems on ships have become easier to use, so less training is required. He says the Navy is bringing back celestial navigation to make sure its officers understand the fundamentals.

"You know, I would equate it to blindly following the navigation system in your car: If you don't have an understanding of north/south/east/west, or perhaps where you're going, it takes you to places you didn't intend to go," he says.In fact, there has been at least one incident in the past decade when a Navy ship ran aground partly because of problems with the electronic navigation system, investigators say.Back in the classroom at the Naval Academy, the midshipmen finishing up their first course seem a little bewildered. Until now, says 20-year-old Audrey Channell, celestial navigation wasn't on her radar."I mean, obviously I heard about using stars to navigate in the old days," she says, "but I never thought I'd be using it."Like many of the others in the class, she uses GPS to navigate her daily life.Her instructor, Daniel Stayton, says that's OK. Nobody expects these young officers to become Magellans overnight.

There is a revolutionary plan to take back a traditional Academy and there are all infos a plans on the table. Let's get all togheter and discuss about it!!!

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  • dear Captain, it is a very interesting post. and i'm totally agree with you. i saw, so many time, on the bridge, young officers that instead to look at out from the window with binocular, were behind the master chair with eyes...on a monitor. i have a long past in the Navy. and, even if on a war ship you can find the most moder navigation technologies, for sure , 24/24, on the both sides of the bridge, there are two looksouts with binocular, always looking at the sea. it is their duty. it is ok the technology...but is better to not forget the importance of human factor. Luciano Barbuti