In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Gregor Stevens, Master Mariner, Senior Marine Advisor, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), mentions that one of the key root causes of navigation failure is a lack of situational awareness; reliance on electronic navigation aids is not enough and only if combined with proper look-out, crew members onboard can achieve full appraisal of the situation.
The updated ICS guidance on bridge procedures comes to highlight this and explain the digital transformation that has taken onboard ship bridges and how it affects seafarers.
SAFETY4SEA: You have recently released the 6th edition of your Bridge Procedures Guide. Why there was a need for update? What are the key differences from the previous editions?
Gregor Stevens: The Bridge Procedures Guide has been updated as a result of the rapid technological advances taking place in the shipping industry – in particular, in the bridge environment. It provides crews with the knowledge and confidence they need to deal with the digital transformation taking place within the world fleet, providing the information needed to ensure ships’ officers on the bridge understand the latest systems and procedures. In addition, it has been designed to be more user friendly, recognising that English may not be users’ first language. The new Guide features easy to use downloadable checklists and has more, easy to follow images and diagrams illustrating the guidance.
S4S: Albeit industry’s guidance and best practices, why accidents due to navigation failures still happen? What are the key lessons to learn from previous cases?
Gr.St.: Unsurprisingly the majority of accidents due to navigation failure occur as a result of a number of factors. However, one of the key root causes of navigation failure is a lack of situational awareness, and the Guide emphasises the importance of creating and maintaining good situational awareness in a number of circumstances. Electronic navigation aids including ECDIS, radar, automatic radar plotting aids (ARPA) and AIS are not substitutes for maintaining a proper look-out. The aids and the look-out should be used in combination to achieve a full appraisal of the situation. An effective Master/pilot information exchange is essential to confirm that the Master, bridge team and pilot have appropriate levels of situational awareness and a common understanding before they start the pilotage, and this may show there is a need to amend the existing berth to berth passage plan.
S4S: Considering the digital transformation within shipping, is there a need for more regulation to address e-navigation issues?
Gr.St.: ICS believes that the IMO has sufficient work streams at present to address the area of e-navigation. The IMO e-navigation strategy implementation plan (SIP) has been ongoing for some years, with a number of sub-committees feeding into the plan. The Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) is dealing with a variety of ongoing work items aimed at improving e-navigation, including updates to the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) and to the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS).
S4S: How should the training be transformed to adapt to new ship bridges that are full of complex systems? What should we consider for pilots and bridge teams?
Gr.St.: ICS believes that a comprehensive review of the STCW convention will be undertaken, subject to approval at MSC 105. Such a review should be forward-thinking and the revision fit for purpose for the length of time until the next review, potentially in 10 to 15 years’ time. This means it not only needs to address technology within training as it stands today, but be flexible enough to address training requirements for technological developments that are not yet known. Already we are seeing increased training on simulators and electronic systems which should benefit mariners in the years ahead. However, traditional skills should not be totally forgotten, and they should continue to be taught as fail-safe methods as needed.
S4S: In your view, has the industry been successful in implementing safety culture? What should be our key priorities for strengthening safety culture on board and ashore?
Gr.St.: ICS believes that the industry has taken great leaps in safety in the past years but there is always room for improvement. ICS continues to be a strong voice in the industry for the improvement of standards, through its best practice guidance. We believe a key priority going forward is collaboration, especially in accident reporting and investigation. An important method to enhance safety is by learning from past accidents and sharing that knowledge. There are always things to learn and improve upon, including safety culture – the first line of responsibility for this is the owner, followed by the Master and crew, Flag State and then Port State. All have a role to play in developing safety culture on board and ashore.
S4S: If you could change one thing that would have an either profound or immediate impact on the safety performance across the industry, what this one thing would it be and why?
Gr.St.: It would be difficult to choose one single thing that would be seen as a quick fix overnight. If there was such an item it would surely be top of everyone’s agenda. That being said, some of the top issues ICS believe could affect safety in this moment include:
a) Safety of Navigation – with ship sizes constantly increasing, this will be under ever more scrutiny. Ports have not grown in size like vessels – indeed the capacity of ships has doubled in the past 15 years. In 2023 Costco will be launching container ships with 23,000 TEU. We have seen with the Ever Given and the Wakashio that maritime incidents are now headline news.
b) Multiple failure points around potential cyber-attacks: GPS spoofing, ECDIS issues etc.
c) Misdeclaration of cargo and issues around IMDG & IMSBC cargos.
S4S: What is your key message for the industry stakeholders to move forward, to better learn from previous accidents and ensure enhanced safety onboard?
Gr.St.: As mentioned previously, at ICS we really do believe collaboration in the industry is key for the enhancement of safety on board. With over 60,000 merchant ships trading around the world, if every incident was reported, investigated, and shared, then companies could really learn from others and move forward together with safety at the forefront. We would like to see improved accident reporting through the IMO GISIS module, with Flag State reports not only added to the database but done so within improved timelines.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
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