I’ve learned that the mysteries of situational awareness is not so much knowing where you are, but knowing where you should not be. Because today with high position I can do reconstruction and know exactly where you’re grounded.

Something is not right, is it?

Collisions are usually avoided by maintaining awareness and anticipation, and application of COLREGS and taking action.

It’s not about who is the first person that is going to blink before I alter.

Precision is about the value from the set point and accuracy is about the repeatability of that.

In all the systems and navigation, the chart, how long ago was it surveyed? What’s the accuracy of the chart?

Just a bit of history:

  • 1935: lights of sounding;
  • By 1935: we were beginning to do lines of SONAR;
  • By the early 1970’s: we were using side scan SONAR and we can pick up the rock;
  • From the early 200: we were using multi-beam SONAR, where you can now count the coordinates.

So, in the seaded you can pick up some good objects, including wrecks.

Situational awareness means knowing what’s happening around you, where you are and where you are going.

An example of a ship that didn’t have situational awareness is the OVIT, that grounded using ECDIS.

The old days, the navigating officer used to study the chart. In ECDIS you’re required to not just do the route check, but it has a facility to do, but you go down the track to check there’s nothing in the way.

You need vertical separation and horizontal from danger. Need to know where that danger line is.

Lattice Navigation: It means nothing. In my early days we were taking radar bearings and visual bearings and rangers from radar; it meant something.

Parallel indexing: we talk about it at The Nautical institute. You’re getting a satellite fix and now you can get a terrestrial fix as well, just to compliment that.

The acronym COAST should be adopted:

  • Concentration

Vigilant watchkeepers showing courtesy and good seamanship toward other vessels

  • Observation

Proper lookout at all available means, foremost of which is looking out the window.

  • Anticipation

Decision-cycle based on good observations and lookout to maintain situational awareness

  • Space

Allow sufficient sea room to manoeuvre with freedom and amend any course of action

  • Time

Time to execute the plan with ample time to react to evolving situations

We should correlate navigation systems.

In the aviation world, they talk about primary, secondary and tertiary means of navigation. It could be Inertial navigation, GPS and Beacon.

In the maritime sector, unfortunately, we’re going to put a second GPS sector just in case one breaks.

In conclusion, we’re really not building resilience in our correlation and we’re not aviating properly.


Above text is an edited version of Mr. Paul Whyte’s presentation during the 2019 SAFETY4SEA London Conference.

You may view his presentation here.

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

Captain Paul Whyte, MBE AFNI, Shipping Technical Director (Navigation Services), London Offshore Consultants

Captain Paul Whyte MBE AFNI joined LOC in 2012. He is Shipping Technical Director (Navigation Services) based in London and has 37 years’ seagoing and 12 years’ sea command experience.

Paul also qualified as a Royal Navy Specialist Navigator and writes many navigation related articles, and was co-author of the Nautical Institute “Maritime Accidents and Their Causes”.

He has provided expert witness evidence in Court and prepared expert reports for collisions, allisions and groundings, unsafe port disputes, ice navigation damage claims, weather and passage related charterparty disputes, speed and performance disputes, ship-to-ship operations and salvage dangers, as well as personal injury claims.

Paul supports LOC marine investigators that have the capability, expertise and experience to offer a highly professional and technically accurate reconstruction of any collision, allision, grounding or stranding.