Laura Grant, Claims Executive at UK P&I Club, commented on the increasing reliance on technology within shipping, as the years have progressed. Among its positive effects within the shipping world, Ms Grant notes, is that it has allowed crews to stay in contact with their loved ones while on long journeys, but sometimes it may go wrong.
“Whilst it may be comforting for crew to have contact with their friends and families back home, is it not sometimes safer to be unaware? Aside from the total FOMO (fear of missing out) they may face, there is also the worry that they could find something out which would affect not only their ability to perform their job efficiently and safely, but also their mental health”, she pointed out.
In addition, Ms Grant cites a series of consequences brought by intense connectivity on board. Firstly, being secluded in a cabin with only the internet for company can affect the sense of community on board and, with the crew spending less time getting to know each other, it makes building relationships, cohesion and morale more difficult.
“In terms of the electronic kit on board the vessel such as ECDIS charts, while this in theory seems to be the perfect solution to all of our problems, we have to consider what to do when this fails us. We can’t deny that technological issues happen. GPS signals can drop, alarms can be turned off, there are a whole range of things that can go wrong. This is why we need to ensure crews are thoroughly trained in ‘old fashioned’ navigation, as well as how to use these electronic systems properly.
In this context, Ms Grant suggest that the industry and operators need to use their intuition, senses, skills and not rely purely on technology to do their jobs instead, noting that having the skills to deal with a situation when technology has failed will not only serve to limit claims, but it could save lives.
“Undoubtedly, technology has brought positive change to the shipping world. It is an amazing and useful resource but we need to ensure that we have proper procedures in place should it all go wrong. We are all guilty of over relying on technology. For example, you may not be able to point to north in a hurry? Not a problem when you have Google Maps, but what happens when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, your phone battery has died and you’ve never learned to read a map?”