Now that the trenches have been dig in nice & deep, and the grenade throwing / defense-of-established-positions has really gotten going here’s something else to think about.
I flat-out reject the idea that a CO, or Master, in this day and age (and for quite a distance back in time) can realistically and reasonably be expected to have the thorough, in-depth knowledge of all aspects of a given ship’s systems that are depended on for operations. For the Navy to claim so is delusional at best. Vessels of all kinds have long since become far too complex for this to be a realistic expectation. It’s a nice idea, and at one time may have been a reasonable standard, but it’s not truly achievable today, not even close. Military career rotation schedules seem to aggravate this condition, serving the institutional needs more than the long-term practical needs of personnel development and retention of expertise. Just because a practice, corporate or military, has been established and institutionalized doesn’t necessarily validate it’s value or effectiveness.
So we can kid ourselves, dangerously, about this if we want to. But it’s just pure hubris to believe it. Everything keeps getting more complex in a vicious negative feedback loop that requires ever-more training, ever-more qualifications, ever-more specialization in an ever-growing array of knowledge areas while the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, rendering what you learn or are trained to do increasingly obsolete faster than ever before and with no end in sight. Technological “improvements” now often fail to live up to their claimed benefits and sometimes confer no benefit at all, other than generating continuous corporate profits. Meanwhile, financial pressure works, on military & merchant vessels alike, to keep manning at a bare minimum to get by in the moment while the politicians and regulators just keep going along with it, no matter the consequences.
And the cure offered is always the same: More training! More education! More new technology! That alone will solve nothing, as there are distinct human limits to contend with that no amount of additional training will fix. One of those limits is the limit on how much knowledge can be absorbed and retained for future use by a given individual human. Another is the limits on how fast we can (or should) try to adapt to new technology. We all have limits which need to be acknowledged and understood. So the tail is wagging the dog here, technology-wise, and it shouldn’t be. Failing to address that issue means anything else is just a band-aid slapped over a gaping hole in the side of a destroyer. And yes, the merchant fleets of the world have more than enough shortcomings to answer for as well.
Which brings up another good question. Is it possible now that we have maxed out the benefits of increasingly complex technologies (considered in the aggregate) and reached or passed “peak safety”? Are we now riding down the backside of that curve?