Digital navigation: old skills in new technology. Lessons from the grounding of the Nova Cura April 2016. This Dutch Safety Board report draws attention to the functionalities of ECDIS and that the modernity of ECDIS obscures the fact that the system may be reliant on ENCs with a very low level of reliability. Checking the CATZOC and the pick reports is therefore key to safe navigation.
Conclusions of the Dutch Safety Board
Preparations had been made on board the Nova Cura for a voyage to Izmir, taking a route west of Lesbos. When the destination was amended to Aliaga, the route was changed. No new voyage preparations were made for the new route, which ran north of Lesbos. Although new waypoints were set, no other information was used in changing the route. The Pilots for the area were not consulted for potential hazards, the sector lights were either not identifed suffciently or not identifed at all and the available ENC was not checked for reliability.
The position of the shallows of Lamnas Reef on the available ENC deviated from their actual location. According to the ENC, the shallows were supposed to be 0.2 nautical miles (about 400 metres) further north. Because of unfamiliarity with the concept of CATZOC to assess the reliability of the ENC, the crew were unaware that major deviations could be present on the ENC. In addition, their impression that the shallows ended abruptly at the transition between two ENCs gave the crew no cause to keep a greater distance from Lamnas Reef. The distance to the shallows chosen in this case (± 400 metres) appeared to be insuffcient to prevent the ship from running aground.
A consultation of the Pilots for the area (which contained a description of the shallows) and the correct use of sector lights could have contributed to a safe passage of Lamna Reef.
- Adequate voyage preparations contribute to safe navigation. ECDIS incorporates various information sources, but this is of no use if the information that is available is not consulted. Even allowing for the fact that the actual position of the Lamnas Reef shallows deviated from their location in ECDIS, the Nova Cura would not have travelled to that position in the frst place if adequate voyage preparations had been made when the route was changed. The use of ECDIS must be supplemented by all other available tools to support safe navigation
- When hydrographic services convert very old nautical charts into ENCs, they tend to overlook practicality issues and the expectations that users have of a relatively new system such as ECDIS. By converting old paper nautical charts into ENCs, hydrographic services unintentionally foster the mistaken assumption among users that the information is up to date.
- ECDIS is a relatively new, state-of-the-art navigation system, which may create the impression that it guarantees highly accurate navigation. This can lead to the crew overestimating the reliability of the information at their disposal or even neglecting to check it. As new technology gains traction, traditional skills fall out of use and seem to disintegrate altogether.
- ECDIS technology is capable of offering much more information than the user is able to process. In addition, the retrieval of information from the system is not always intuitive. ECDIS users must be made more aware of this issue, which should be highlighted in the ECDIS user instructions and system training. It should also be a factor in the future development of ECDIS.
The full Dutch Safety Report can be accessed at Nova Cura (April 2016)