WATCHOUT Fogging up the view: inadequate radar use causes chaos

01 Jun 2014 The Navigator

In this series, we take a look at maritime accident reports and the lessons that can be learned.

What happened?
The departure of a bulk carrier was delayed due to thick fog. When conditions improved slightly, the vessel set off, but crossed the river quicker than anticipated. The pilot did not monitor the speed, and was not familiar enough with the onboard radar equipment to use it correctly. He and the bridge crew soon lost situational awareness in the fog and did not carry out a continuous radar watch as per the guidelines. The vessel collided with some moored barges before grounding in shallow water. Damage was caused to the hull and shell plating that took two weeks to repair.

Why did it happen?
Investigations into the incident found that the loss of situational awareness of the bulk carrier’s bridge team was instrumental to the grounding, along with their lack of knowledge about how to use the onboard radar equipment. The pilot’s attempt to establish the vessel’s position and speed using the radar was unsuccessful as he was not familiar with the set. Inappropriate settings on the radar meant it would have been difficult to identify the vessel’s position due to clutter.
In addition, the roles and responsibilities of the bridge team had not been confirmed before the vessel left its berth, despite the tricky conditions caused by the thick fog. As a result, no-one was instructed to keep a continuous radar watch, and the course and speed of the bulk carrier were not monitored closely enough during the manoeuvre. The bulk carrier quickly ran into trouble and the fog caused the team to lose situational awareness, meaning that the erroneous course was not corrected, nor the alarm raised in time.

The issues

  • Lack of situation awareness
  • Unfamiliarity with the onboard radar system
  • Ineffective use of radar
  • Poor bridge resource management

What changes have been made?

  • Recommendations were made to improve bridge team performance, especially when operating in conditions of poor or restricted visibility
  • Advice was issued to pilots to take care when setting up a radar with which they may be unfamiliar
  • Restricted visibility berthing and unberthing exercises were added to simulator training sessions