Navy Notes Poor Seamanship and Navigation Skills in Merchant Marine Community

It’s on page 49 of the Comprehensive Review of Surface Forces. which was linked to in the other thread about recent collisions involving navy ships.

According to the report about 30% of the merchant mariners evaluated at MITAGS using the NSAP model were unable to properly tune the radar, did not make proper use of ECDIS and over relied upon ECDIS while neglecting RADAR and visual.


To: all US Navee PINHEADS
From: all US Merchant Mariners

Subject: Comprehensive Review of Surface Forces

To the authors of the subject report,

With regards to your findings in the subject report that US merchant mariners are deficient in seamanship and navigation skills, collectively all of us US merchant mariners simply wish to state for the record…

submitted with zero respect this date


Sounds more like a “hail Mary” attempt to divert attention from the incredible level of Navy incompetence and corruption that has been exposed lately.

Note to Navy: Calling the kettle black doesn’t shine your own filthy pot.


I don’t think that one paragraph buried in a hundred seventy three page report is going to have that effect.


Well, if this isn’t a pot and kettle situation… I have never seen one

Well, that is one under the belt and that from a usually reliable source. You guys take your medicine as a man because as always the Navy’s word is law…

I understood that paragraph to mean ‘no system is faultless’ or ‘even full time professionals are not perfect’ or something along those lines.

If that is what they meant they should have said so. I read it as a kettle/pot cop-out by an apologist with nothing of value to add to the conversation.

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The post title is a bit misleading, I believe NSAP was started to address complaints from shipping companies, the navy is taking note, not something they “found”

Here’s the description of NSAP program. -

Navigation Skills Assessment Program (NSAP®)
Individual Course / Program

Length 2 Days

Training Method
Full Mission Simulation/De-brief
Ship, Tug, OSV, Ferry

Chart or Voyage Plan

Merchant Mariner License
Individual Course

Course Description

This innovative Navigation Skills Assessment Program utilizes custom simulation scenarios and assessment criteria based on a company’s defined knowledge and skill requirements to objectively measure the mariner’s performance. The results: Knowledge and skill gaps are identified and recommendations are made.

Areas assessed during the simulation include:

COLREGS / Rules of the Road
Situational Awareness
Bridge Resource Management
Company Policies and Procedures

Performance at each measurement point is rated: Highly Effective; Effective; Not Effective; and, in some cases Unsatisfactory. using a numerical point scale.

A comprehensive report is generated at the end of each assessment session for review purposes. This report includes the evaluator(s) observations and comments for each attendee and general recommendations that address the individual’s knowledge and skill gaps. Observations and recommendations may include further training or implementation of additional company policies and procedures.

This Navigation Skills Assessment Program provides a safe and meaningful experience for mariners to improve on their performance, especially if the company has recently experienced an incident.

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The information is not from the Navy, it’s comes from MITAGS which is a maritime union training facility.

I wouldn’t underestimate the Navy’s ability to solve problems, they did it with SUBSAFE. after the USS Thresher (SSN-593) was lost.

Also, I wouldn’t put too much weight on all the comments here about the Navy. Some forum members maybe drank too much “school spirit” kook-aid at the academy. The kool-aid usually wears off after a year or two after graduation but not in every case.


MITAGS has been running this for years. So has STAR center for various companies that want to get an idea of their new hires competency as well as other areas needing improvement of their current crop of officers.

I don’t see this information as shocking. I think anyone who works long enough at sea knows there are a certain percentage of officers that leave you scratching your head as to how they got a license at all. Hell, I’ve met AB’s that can’t tie a bowline. The fact that MITAGS, the MM&P, or the industry at large are willing to admit these faults and have an assessment in place to recognize, target, and fix them is nothing to be ashamed of. Simulators allow you to F up and learn from the mistakes. There is something to learn every day at sea no matter how long you’ve been practicing it as a profession. It’s part of being a professional.


Sure, not shocking or surprising, hopefully MITAGS got the 30% who could not tune a radar is from testing new mates and not senior officers.

So I was one of the first MSC officers sent to this navigation skills assessment at MITAGS. I think only one or two of us were third mates. The rest were second mate to masters.

The first thing we said to each other even before the assessments was how bad we will do. MSC officers effectively stop standing watch or working on the bridge after promoting to second mate so we were out of regular practice.

Sure enough after the assessments most of us felt like we made mistakes. I hadn’t stood a watch in years and I know I made some elementary mistakes. Only the third mates felt they did okay.

If USN compares themselves to MSC deck officers in watchstanding the results will certainly make USN look… not as bad. An interesting comparison would be to put USN against non-MSC deck officers. Who knows what data set the USN folks used so maybe they did.


You are right, I got that one wrong!

My impression from that report (not easy to understand), was that the Navy believes that they need to do a better job at evaluating SWO skills by using a more objective methods then just using shipboard evaluations. That’s why there are looking into how MITAGS does it.

Knowing that the NSPA model is finding a high level of lack of skills is good information if that’s the goal.

I certainly do not get the impression that the Navy is going to try to avoid this issue with PR or some other diversionary scheme, it seems like the “get” that they have a problem.

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It’s a diversionary tactic called “whatabout-itis”

There’s no cure and it’s a gruesome end.

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How did you actually do (as used to how you felt you did)?

I’ve sailed with many senior officers that couldn’t properly tune a radar. (They THOUGHT they could though.)

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They didn’t tell us too much. The assessment is standardized and the same for everyone. I figure they don’t tell much because we could tell our friends who would know what to do when it’s their time. We even had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

The assessment goes to the employer. The employer can chose to share it with the employee. I asked but never got the results.

Gotcha. We had an individual debrief afterwards and had to sign a copy of the assessment.