202004 Another touchscreen ghost

05 Jan 2020 MARS 2020

A small split-hull suction dredger was fully loaded and on its way to the dumping ground. The vessel was on autopilot and the duty seaman decided to dust the wheelhouse consoles. The vessel, still making way, was close to the dumping ground but not yet in position when the hull opened unexpectedly and the dredged material was prematurely released.

The investigation found that the ‘virtual button’ on the touchscreen control panel for the emergency open had been activated by the operator while he was dusting the screen. This button was only one level deep in the touchscreen menu control. Two unintended touches with the duster, one to reveal the ‘emergency opening’ button and one to activate it, had opened the vessel.

Lessons learned

  • This incident and MARS 202003 demonstrate that touchscreen devices, which are increasingly common on ships, have introduced new risks. These devices can control a wide range of vessel functions. Crew need to have a thorough understanding of the particularities and sensitivities of each touchscreen device.
  • For touchscreen applications on control panels, procedures and protections should be implemented to protect against unwantedactivations and their consequences.