WATCHOUT Poor ECDIS use led to grounding

01 Jun 2015 The Navigator

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

What happened?
A tanker was crossing a heavily used waterway under VTS control, using autopilot control. The third officer, who had been given the role of navigator, took over as OOW and was joined by a deck cadet assigned look out duties. Prior to his arrival on the bridge, the tanker’s intended route across the waterway had been prepared using the ship’s ECDIS. The new OOW positioned himself where he could see both the ECDIS and the radar displays, yet he failed to check the passage plan properly for navigational hazards using the ECDIS ‘check route’ function. Nor did he check the intended track relative to any dangers to navigation that would be encountered on his watch, or have the route verified by the Master. The intended route contained errors, including having the vessel pass directly over an area of water with less depth than the draught of the vessel.

Why did it happen?
The OOW failed to check the planned route on ECDIS when he came on duty, which could be considered a direct consequence of underdeveloped professional training in this area. Likewise, the errors in the input route were caused by inadequate training in the use of ECDIS and passage planning. Finally, the deck cadet failed to alert the OOW to the flashing lights he saw, which could have given him more warning and time to react ahead of the grounding.

The issues

  • Lack of supervision or guidance in the third officer’s use and checking of ECDIS
  • Lack of suitable training in the use and checking of ECDIS for the Master and deck officers onboard
  • Lack of situational awareness shown by the third officer and deck cadet

What changes have been made?

  • A strong case has been put forward to develop and provide tools for auditors and inspectors to check the use and performance of ECDIS
  • Further training has been recommended for the tanker’s officers in these areas of professional development


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