Grounding: Electronic Chart System for Training Only

ECS

By MarEx 2017-08-27 19:47:44

On February 10 this year, the Portuguese-flagged container ship Victoria went aground at the entrance to the deepwater channel Lillegrund, Denmark. Though the bridge crew were aware of the shallow waters ahead, they were caught by surprise when the grounding occurred as their attention was focused on the turn into the channel. 

The grounding resulted in serious damage to the ship’s hull and several fuel oil tanks and ballast tanks were ruptured resulting in a minor pollution of the environment.

The Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board (DMAIB) initiated an investigation of the accident and found that the bridge team's priority was, first and foremost, to navigate visually by means of the buoys rather than the paper charts and the electronic chart system (ECS). The position of the isolated danger mark did not warn the crew about the immediate danger of the shallow waters ahead because it was positioned in such a way that it did not direct the ship away from the shallow water area.

During the investigation, it was not possible to establish the intended purpose of the ECS. According to the bridge crew, it was not common to use the ECS when navigating because it was not approved and there was a sticker on the monitor highlighting that it was “ARCS CHARTS FOR TRAINING ONLY.” 

During the investigation, the bridge crew continuously referred to the sticker when asked about the use of the ECS. However, there were some indications that the ECS was to some extent used in daily navigation: It was normally turned on and the ship’s route was loaded into the system, and the ECS was positioned in front of the officer of the watch providing a continuous overview of the ship’s position. An investigation of the paper charts showed that the fixed positions were only sporadically marked in the paper chart, which indicated that the navigational officers primarily used other means of determining the position of the ship, including the ECS.

The investigators concluded that the accident illustrates that navigating a ship is a complex interaction between different tasks, e.g. using a passage plan that someone else has made, collision avoidance, fixing the position of the ship,
maneuvering, interacting with other crewmembers, talking to the VTS and getting the ship to its destination on time, etc. As the bridge crew cannot
be equally focused on each task simultaneously, a prioritization of tasks will take place. That prioritization is necessary for the bridge crew to make effective task-specific decisions, but can also lead to other information not being recognized.

The marine accident report is available here.