Who’s driving that big rig? (#2, he’s asleep!)

Lerrix MAIB Panbo

OK, it’s not exactly glamorous to drive a cargo ship full of used cars out through Germany’s Keil Canal and than across the Baltic to Lithuania, but it was this unfortunate skipper’s first command. That’s why he couldn’t rest well during the already stressful 6-on/6–off watch schedule (only two deck officers!), and possibly why he let the lookout—who was also the cook and about to be relieved the next day—go below to clean the galley for the next guy. Result? The captain fell asleep so solidly that Lerrix went a full hour past a turning mark before it went aground, even though VTS (vessel traffic service) operators were trying to warn him by radio.
  Yes, readers, I’ve been dipping once again into the rich archives of the U.K.”s MAIB (Marine Accident Investigation Bureau), and finding yet more dope that should make you very cautious about big ships. An interesting aspect of this particular case, detailed here, is how minimal the ship’s electronics were, though up to Brit code, and how funky the skipper’s own setup:

“Lerrix’s bridge equipment met the criteria required for the flag state {U.K.} Safety Equipment Certificate. Although compliant, the navigation equipment fit was basic, consisting of 3cm and 10cm radars, neither with an ARPA facility, an echo sounder with a paper plot, and stand alone AIS and GPS sets.
  During the investigation, it was noted that the master carried his own laptop computer from ship to ship, complete with a hand-held GPS. Loaded onto the laptop was a pirated programme of Transas electronic charting, which he had downloaded from the internet in 1999. The hand-held GPS, which the master had secured to the bridge console, provided the positional information for the laptop’s electronic chart (Figure 6). Examination of the programme showed that it had not been updated since 1999, and the charts on the system were based upon 1999 data. The downloaded software did not provide any of the optional operator functions, such as warnings and alarms.”

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

3 Responses

  1. A Croatian skipper recently bought my navigation software, TIKI Navigator. He called me to ask what kind of GPS I would recommend and how to get the free US NOAA marine charts. I recommended a reasonably priced puck GPS, but was somewhat surprised to learn that he wanted all the US charts. When I asked him if he really needed charts for Alaska, the US West Coast, East coast, the Great Lakes, Carrebean and Hawaii, he said yes. Even more surprised I asked him what kind of boat he had. It was a tanker! His English was a bit hard to understand, so I asked him again – and yes, he was the captain of a big tanker. OK, I thought – how nice to have my program for leasure boaters used as a backup on a tanker. Reading your article “Who’s driving that big rig?”, I wonder…

  2. DefJef says:

    sv Essence collided with a cargo vessel in LIS two weeks ago. Essence sank and one crew member died… The collision occured at 0400.. who was on watch?
    Electronic collision avoiidance anyone?
    sv shiva

  3. Steve says:

    Instead of laying all of the blame on the captain, maybe we should examine the responablity of the ship owners to provide safe working conditions and up to date equipment.

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