Why do naval vessels suffer accidents?


The Zr.Ms. Zeeland (P841) is the second ship of the Holland class, a series of four patrol vessels (Ocean Patrol Vessels) for the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Here are some pictures of the bridge of the ship. Sorry for the quality but these are shots taken of the television screen.

A reporter sailed for five days with the ship when it was on drugs patrol in the Caribbean waters. He is the guy in the back with crossed arms talking to the female watch officer. Except for the helmsman there is a non visible lookout on the bridge. That’s all. True, it is not a full blown battle ship but the principles are the same.

These are dedicated watch officers, no other duties other then may be the humble task of vacuumcleaning their quarters. No room service is provided…

The ship is sailing with a number of American Navy personnel. In the last month the ship seized 2500 kg cocaine and an estimated 1200 kg was thrown overboard by two speedboats. Sharp shooters on board the ship’s helicopter simply take out the speedboat’s two or three outboards.

Turned back to the sea, chatting up the watch officer? I’d give him 5 seconds to get off the bridge.


I think was some may not understand is that Naval Vessels have to practice their Nav team in restricted waters. While 2 min fixtures and reports to Conn seem silly to most merchant guys and to every pilot, what they are practicing for is a need to enter a hostile area, where they have never been before, and there are no pilots.

That was the reporter interviewing the watch officer. As long as there was no traffic close by probably no too bad. Likey the whole purpose of allowing the reporter aboard was to get good PR.

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While you’re at it, read about Norway’s recent Navy ship grounding and sinking of the HELGE INGSTAD.

While operating in her own coastal waters, within a VTS area, she had a collision with a tanker that had just gotten underway from a dock, at night. The Norwegian Navy ship had erratic VHF comms with both VTS and pilot on tanker moments before collision.

It must have been utter chaos on the bridge of the Navy ship. They claim they were confused by the deck lights from the tanker.

Finally, they had their AIS turned off. Immediately AFTER they collided, they turned it on. This was in a VTS area with heavy traffic. And AFTER McCAIN and FITZ accidents. Norwegians didn’t learn anything from those two disasters.

The US Navy isn’t the only Navy with officers making poor decisions on the bridge.

You must be new here. :wink:

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My experience mirrors Jughead’s. The nearest we had to the USN position of Quartermaster was the navigators yeoman, a radar plot rating, who had received additional training in chart correction and the care of chronometers.
As a very junior officer my first command was a patrol craft with a crew of nine. The bridge was open and never crowded particularly in winter in the rather boisterous sea conditions that can be encountered around the New Zealand coast.
The nearest thing that we had in the merchant marine was a very large shipping company where newly promoted masters served on small coasters and as they gained seniority went on to command larger vessels.
For the benefit of Pilot 16 it should be noted that on coastal tonnage it was a requirement that all masters had to obtain a pilotage exemption certificate for all the ports the vessel called at.
During my service in the navy we took a pilot only on two occasions.
Once through the Suez Canal just before it closed. The pilot helped himself to the Commanding Officers afternoon tea and thereafter remained on the bridge wing.
The other a Panama Canal transit.

I can certainly see the merchant marine influence on that bridge layout. I’ve never served on a naval bridge with such space and with so many computer screens. Missing is the central feature of every bridge I served on … a centreline pelorus from which the OOW observed bearings of everything he could see. Officers wore binoculars and used them constantly.

It certainly looks comfy and I don’t dispute the advances in useful gadgets and good layout. But we seemed to get by. My service in an old aircraft carrier reminds me we had about a quarter of the space if that, one chair for the captain and clunky boxes containing a radar scope, dials that looked bulletproof, and a chart table capable of holding a folded chart.

My current bridge is an open poop deck, no protection, a wheel and throttles, a couple of readouts and a compass. The Charthouse is below. We harness the helmsman in position in the rough stuff! Character building.

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I read the thread here and commented at the time and, as I recall, my speculation as to what happened has largely been verified.

Yes, my first command was a patrol boat. Great fun!

And my pilot through the Suez was more interested in what might be his ‘gift’ when he was ready to inspect it and getting himself and his family to Australia … apparently I could authorise his citizenship. He’d never been to sea.


Suez pilots used to demand Malboros and Playboy magazines. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve upped their game and will sulk if they don’t get iPads with preloaded porn and fake Rolexes.

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I am a bit worried how the wheelhouse will light up at night with all those screens. We used to have a pitch dark bridge, at most some red light shining through from the chart room behind it.


Both canals require a local pilot…for everyone, always. For obvious reasons. I don’t know how long its been since you left the Navy (?), but as an individual riding with Pearl Harbor Pilots (A US Navy Base) to obtain my own Pilotage trips there, every vessel calling there takes a Navy Pilot. Every. Vessel. Whether they have to or not, is another (irrelevant) matter.

Secondly, I’m am uncertain of the vessels you speak of when you say…

Are you still referencing Navy ships? Or civilian? And where? New Zealand?

I think what’s contributing to the occasional confusion in this discussion, is too many commenters are assuming every reader knows where you are from and your back ground. Big mistake.

Am I new here? No. Are you? I don’t know where you are from or where you worked or are working. So take that in consideration when replying.

When making comments about one Navy force and comparing to the US Navy forces, everyone understands (or should) there are some similarities…and some dramatic differences. I will tell you in my 25 years pf piloting a variety of both US and Foreign navy ships in multiple civilian ports where I work, the foreign navy vessels have a far better protocol for maneuvering in pilotage waters.

Most all Navy ships under foreign flags have the CO docking the ship. Typically doing a great job, while working with the Pilot. US Navy ships have a junior officer doing the job who may have extensive experience ship handling or even his very first time. All the while, The CO, XO, and Pilot are all breathing down his neck, A recipe for disaster.

Australian, Canadian, French, Japanese, Mexican, and Chilean ships I’ve seen first hand have always been a relatively easy job (for me, as a pilot). US Navy ships? Generally very stressful.


One case of Marlboros was the cost to get thru expeditiously. One way. We always “loaded up” on CASES (not cartons mind you) of cigarettes and scotch, chocolate, and Levis Jeans for our voyage thru Suez.

Our Captain was a savvy guy. We never had problems or were delayed.

Good eye, Capt.

My last vessel was a seismic survey vessel . The bridge was the largest space onboard

To continue after getting a fat finger in the way. There were screens everywhere, no bridge wings and it took a bit of getting used to.

I left the navy in 1971 and my passage through the Suez Canal in 1967 and yes we had a pilot because it was compulsory.
The coastal ships I referred to were owned by the Union Steamship Company whom owned more than 60 ships that traded throughout the Pacific in the 60’s. The barque Pamir taken as a war prize in Wellington was manned by the company and traded between the west coast of the US during the war.

That bridge is better than most US Navy ships I’ve seen. The screen brightness can be an issue and I’m sometimes amazed how the bridge team leaves the dial turned up when I get to the bridge after boarding at night on some (civilian) ships. But that tells me they are looking at the screen more than out the window…as they are approaching the pilot station ?!

THAT is a scary reality.

Too many people staring into fancy screens is the problem now, and not looking out the window at reality.

But the screens can be turned way down with respect to brightness to ease the strain on your eyes and help keep night vision. In fact, most ECDIS systems have a choice to make for day and night display. Better models even have a “dusk” display. My PPU that I use has this feature and I use it the most.

One captain once told me that if he would blind the windows his younger officers probably wouldn’t even notice that.


Me at the right in my younger days on a Shell tanker with the port wing repeater.

I like bridge wings, walk out in the fresh air, looking stupidly over the wing’s side at the rushing water and leaning on the forward bulkhead. Also on this ship they are deprived of that pleasure.

As already was said before there is no midship pelorus, a thing I have never seen on a merchant ship, but I have no idea how they take bearings if there is no bridge wing gyro repeater, that can’t be. Perhaps they now use the radar or ESDIC…

We sometimes got a mate who had worked his way up via coastal shipping. They were always very good seamen, you could tell that they had lived close to the sea, very hands on. He used to take bearings with both hands cupped over the wing repeater and with thumbs and index fingers touching. He had to bring the V’s formed at the top of those fingers in line with the target, it looked very much like a praying motion. We observed it with some astonishment but when at a certain moment the captain came on the bridge and saw this he almost got a heart attack and all hell broke loose. That was the end of this coaster method…