Bridge Resource Management - Faux Pas

About 17 years ago I was Chief Engineer on a 2000 TEU Container vessel which was about to start on a new trade between the Far East and Central American and West Coast South American ports. The Captain and I were friends and had known each other a long time having sailed together in a different company at at our present and lower ranks. We were in the port of Pusan, South Korea and the Captain and his wife had gone ashore in the afternoon. The 3rd Mate gave me a copy of the Distance Between Ports spreadsheet. The Waypoints didn’t concern me too much but I needed to know the various distances in order to calculate Fuel Oil and Cylinder Oil bunker requirements. I had previously looked up the distances on a CD - Rom that was supplied with a Fairplay Magazine so I had an idea of the distances on the new run. The 3rd Mates calculations tallied pretty much with all legs of the trade except one - Pusan to Manzanello, Mexico. His calculated distance was 500 miles greater than that stated in the CD - Rom. That evening after dinner I mentioned it to the Captain. He became irate and said that he had verified the distances etc. I said ok and returned to my cabin to turn in for a few hours as we were sailing at midnight. We sailed on schedule on the first leg of the new trade. At about 5pm the following evening the Captain came to my cabin and asked me to kick him in the ass. I asked him what he meant and he sheepishly confessed that he had gone the wrong way! He elaborated by saying he should have gone via the Hakodate straits instead of South About bottom of Japan. I couldn’t help but laugh but not in a nasty way. We had a few beers before dinner and during this time I asked him if he could use the weather as a reason for going the “Long Way”. Fortunately for him this turned out to be an acceptable decision. I said to him jokingly if he ever sees strange colour smoke coming from the funnel to let me know immediately and I would not ask him what colour he wanted. On a more serious note we discussed the principles of the Bridge Resource Management and how it had failed in this instance.


Not reading a wall of text

Captain Blowhard did the same thing when I was C/M. - Pusan to Tacoma.

We left Busan a bit after 2000 hrs and I headed straight for the rack. Next morning at about 0400 I get to the bridge to relieve the second mate and I see we are going the long way round, around the south tip of Kyushu.

I asked the second mate why were we not using Tsugaru Strait, it’s about 500 miles shorter, a full day’s steaming. He had no idea what I was talking about so I asked him if the captain had seen and approved the route, the second mate said he had given him the waypoint list but he said the captain hadn’t checked the route on the charts.

It’s Mercator-head, going around looks shorter on a Mercator chart.


TLDR: Captain ignored mate, went wrong way, later apologized.

I can see why this would be an easy mistake for a second mate to make. A lot of 2nd mates don’t have any experience creating a new route in an area that the ship has never run before.

Leave the task of the waypoints and so forth to the second mate but the captain should provide guidance wrt the general lay-out of the voyage routes.

A good place to start is the BA Ocean Passages for the World.

Also the chief engineer is going to be motivated to carefully research distances. It’s likely worth the time to get to the bottom of any mismatch between the navigator’s numbers and the chief’s.

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He was a very good experienced Captain but he let this one slip past him. The point is an alert was presented to him and he done nothing about it. This goes against all principles of BRM.


Sorry. I tried to keep it short, informative and interesting.

Sure, understood, didn’t intend to come off like a critic with 20/20 hindsight.

We changed from one trade to another many times, learned a lot, mostly the hard way.

No offence taken Captain. I am new to this Forum but I have read some of your contributions and you appear to be a Gentleman who does not indulge in thrash talk.

There are a number of options for masters to have at their finger tips when looking at the passage plans. Reeds distance tables are a good start but encouraging second mates and the third mate to understudy the passage plan and using all the publications available works.

3 posts were split to a new topic: Ship aground ten years ago

I use the method that is said to be used by lawyers in a court room, don’t ask a question if you don’ t know the answer.

When we get a schedule I give it to the 2nd mate and tell them to get the distances, then I find the them independently on my own.

Chief also works the distances his own way and then I reconcile any differences.

When an error is made at sea with time pressure, distractions, unclear or conflicting information and so forth the right move is not as obvious as it is when written out afterwards in clear fashion. Putting it in a post on this forum for example. Then it often becomes a matter of “Shoulda, coulda, and woulda”.

I don’t think having a process in place to avoid errors is the same as just simply pointing out how the error could have been avoided in that particular instance.

Or think about “defense in depth”. If you do go off the wrong way, how soon are you going to figure it out? An hour later? A day? A month? If you give the watch a course right through an island, will they try and drive over the island or figure out there is a problem?

Between 1996 and the time the Coast Guard deemed it obsolete in 2008 the Ambrose Light was struck 3 times. I don’t know the circumstances of each incident, but the Captain I sailed with at the time surmised the light was used as a final waypoint to New York…

There was a light ship in the English Channel that suffered the same fate with the introduction of electronic position finding.

Good post Lord Jim.

I always looked upon CRM/BRM as the imperfect stepping stone. It was a concept borne out of the Tenerife accident which attempted to control entrenched human behaviour, egos and personalities. Yet, the line of stepping stones appeared to be heading in the right direction. We needed to address the one person accident.

The Achilles heel is power distance particularly in the case of mixed race crews. In this case, the concept of challenge and response can be fraught with failure.

In the case of “Ever Given”, effective BRM appeared to be almost nonexistent. When the Pilot was allegedly challenged by the Master, he threatened to leave the ship and we all know the final outcome.

Your challenge to the Master was correct although it would appear that his professional ego initially responded in lieu rechecking steaming distances. In your example, the challenge/response concept failed to the detriment of bunkers. In other cases, ramifications can be significant.

We still have a lot more stepping stones to traverse.

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If there was reason to doubt that the distance was correct it would be easy to double-check by calculation or simply by stepping off the distance with dividers.

In this case that wouldn’t work because the distance for that route was correct. Evidently that was not obvious because they followed the same reliable, tried and true voyage planning procedures they always used successfully in the past.

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