FleetMon SANCHI tragedy and profanation of navigating

Link from the Sanchi thread, thought the article was worth a thread of it’s own.

SANCHI tragedy and profanation of navigating

Thoughtless and absolutely irresponsible (but very profitable for some) propagation and enforcing of E-navigation as the main type of navigation, not just leaves the whole of world fleet at the mercy of electronics reliability and capability, it’s much worse than that. It’s transforming navigators into electronics slaves, it’s degrading their navigational skills down to operating several basic programs, with electronic screens being the main reality. It’s degrading educational level as well – anyone can be taught to operate E-navigation, in no time. Add to it the vast knowledge of check-lists and the best ways to deal with hordes of inspectors, from PSC to Trade Unions’ racketeers, and you’ll have an efficient modern bridge officer, according to CEO standards and understanding of navigation (those CEOs being one of the main plagues besetting modern shipping). It’s not navigation, it’s profanation of it.

I’m not convinced anyone can be taught to successfully navigate a ship just using electronics. If mariners are somehow leaning how to operate ships without basic skills then training and integration of nav tools needs to be looked at.

In my experience most new third mates can be taught to navigate without full dependence on electronics. For example in traffic instead of taking the conn as many captain do, let the mate keep the conn while the captain mans the APRA/ECIDS. That way the mate can build confidence in avoidance/navigation solutions obtained visually.


Uh-oh, here come ombugge.

Or that other numb nuts who thinks you only need a few intelligent persons in the office to get the job done operating a ship.

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Contrary to popular belief I’m an old fashion Navigator who learnt how to operate in badly charted areas with few if any working lighthouses or any other markers that could be relied upon {Indonesia and the South Pacific in the 1960’s and early 1970’s) on ships with no electronic “aids to navigation” like Radar, Decca or Loran. You either learnt to do without, or went somewhere else.

I have also frequently expressed dismay at today’s Navigators, who have their head buried behind screens in stead of looking out the window at the real world, or get out of their fully enclosed and heated/air-conditioned bridge to feel the wind in their hair. What is the use of sound signals if nobody can hear them?

I have also complained that they do not have any feel for how the ship behave and the ability to interpret the signals that there are a coastline, island or reef nearby, or detect the signals that the ship is driven too hard,
(I know that is hard on a VLCC or Mega container ship)

That is VERY different from being realistic enough to realize that autonomous ship, with nobody onboard to look for such signs, will be coming, whether you or I like the idea.

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I actually can agree with you on this. I’m a young skipper but I take navigation rather seriously and particularly the old methods as backup to the eventual electronic meltdown. I try to take one full sight per year. Either running sunlines to LAN or a star fix. I own and carry my 1970’s vintage freiberger sextant and personal copy of pub 249 air almanac.

I too am abhored at some of the skill sets being shunned for the modern iteration of “navigation”. One of my recent cadets claimed that KP was no longer teaching special cases like double the angle on the bow and the 7/10’s rule. They are still part of license but no longer being taught or practiced! Why? How else are you to determine distance abeam an aid to navigation without a radar? Even worse is the attitude of some of these young mariners and officers. A “why learn that shit if I’ll never need it?” Kind of vibe. I went into this game wanting only to be a competent mariner and to me that will always be knowing navigation from stem to stern. How else can we distinguish ourselves from not being thought of as glorified bus drivers to the very wealthy individuals who sign our paychecks.


The Alaska Sextant


Placed against the the centerline wheelhouse window to use.

Not even radar? What were you on, a dhow?

The question is what skills are needed. As far as “what if’s”, (gps failure etc) I don’t see that as a priority, it take a lot just to get the mate up to the minimum watch standing skill.

The issue is that navigating from a bird’s eye view is easy, that’s why new mates prefer electronics. Not being able to obtain situational awareness with bridge-level view causes anxiety. It take time to obtain the skill of acquiring situational awareness using the bridge-level view. With a little experience the mate will gain confidence and learn how maneuver/navigate using a bridge-level view.

The easiest way to maneuver/navigate is a combination visual/electronic. Once a mate gets comfortable using visual they will use it. The trick is to push them over the comfort hump.

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I’ve heard of a dumb pelorus, but that’s ridiculous. Except it isn’t really.

Among others, this one:
Seen here as Fred Olsen’s “Bomma”. Built at Aker in 1938. (She was wrecked in a Typhoon at Guam, 1975)

She actually had a Decca Mk.I Radar installed already in 1944. (The first Norwegian Merchant ship to have one)
The display was placed in the Captain’s Sea cabin behind the bridge for protection (It didn’t work)

We were promised a replacement, as soon as they could find “a good used one”.

PS> If anybody here was in Vietnam in 1966-67 they may remember the Slidre. She was chartered to USAID and carried mainly rice along the coast. (Then with a large green dummy funnel to let everybody know that she was not a target)

Or maybe at Guam? The wreck of Slidre was standing on GabGab Beach for several years:
She was pulled off and sunk by the US Navy in 1980.

Yes, it is sometimes interesting to separate the tool and the task and see what’s what.

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Thank you, that’s excellent. Slide rules and nomograms are bloody useful! Even a plain slide rule, while lacking the precision of a calculator, is less subject to “sanity errors” simply by forcing you to keep track of orders of magnitude yourself.


The premise of the article in the OP is that the purpose of tools such as ECDIS and checklist is to de-skill the job of the mariner.

I don’t agree with that, it’s true that both checklist and the ECDIS can be used by unskilled mariners as a crutch.

However it’s also true that it is possible that these tools, such as the EDCIS and checklist can be used by skilled mariners to operate more effectively and safely.