Nov 152007

Once the US National Transportation Safety Board has produced the transcripts of the voyage data recorder from the Cosco Busan (Formerly the Hanjin Cairo, the Hanjin name remains on the ship side) we’ll have a better idea of who said what to whom and when. Currently only the pilot’s version of events is available and it is raising a number of questions.

A malfunctioning radar appears to have been an element, though not the cause, of the incident and so far there has been no indication regarding the second radar on the ship’s bridge. Given that there was poor visibility, was the speed of the vessel excessive? Should departure have been delayed until the fog cleared.

The pilot was not familiar with the ECDIS equipment onboard, which does not appear to have malfunctioned. When the pilot asked the Captain to point out the centre of the bridge span the captain allegedly pointed to the bridge support and the pilot navigated accordingly.

With an apparently malfunctioning radar and a lack of familiarity with the primary method of navigation,  did the pilot seek to confirm the vessels position with the VTS and/or the accompanying tug?

VTS informed the pilot that the ship was off course, which the Pilot disputed and shortly afterwards a lookout shouted a warning that there was a bridge support ahead and the vessel went hard right and allided with the Delta bridge support.

There also appears to have been a lack of detail in the master/pilot exchange when the latter took conduct of the vessel, as the pilot’s lawyer admits. Would the missing information have been enought to prevent the incident?

There may also have been communications problems between the American pilot and the bridge team who were Chinese. Of there were, to what extent did they reduce the pilot and the bridge team’s situational awareness?

It is not uncommon for pilots to ‘go it alone’ rather than work with a bridge team with whom communication is problematic. This increases the workload on the pilot and reduces his situational awareness. Had the pilot and the bridge team undergone bridge team/bridge rsource management training?

Incidents such as this rarely have a single cause, or a single responsible individual. They are usually the result of systemic problems with Bridge Team Management, leadership, culture and navigational practices.

It will be a while before we know the full story of the Cosco Busan, but we’ll hit that bridge when we get to it.


  7 Responses to “Cosco Busan – Questions,Questions,Questions”

  1. Good questions. It was strange that on the AIS plot you can see the ship moving parallel to the bridge and that the VTS called and told the pilot he was on 235T and he said no. He may have thought he was headed for the bridge and then realized he was not and tried to swing 90 degrees. It will be interesting when the voice tapes are released.

  2. […] Cosco Busan – Questions,Questions,Questions […]

  3. If I am not mistaken, the course we are getting on the website as well as that reported on news channels, is the “Course over ground” as per GPS – not the heading of the ship.

    This is apparent by the VDR Transcript where the vessel is heading (as per the pilot’s and helnsmans voice) a course of around 280 while the VTS operator says his screen shows 235.

  4. You might like to look at the discussion on a more recent post: Kneejerk Legislation and Cosco Busan bandwagonning (

  5. The VTS operator apparently made an error. It is my understanding that heading was not available to the operator , only course (COG). He misspoke when he reported “heading”, when he should have said “course”.

    VTS: unit romeo traffic
    uh AIS shows you on
    two three five heading
    what are your intentions

    The vessel data recorder was reporting
    Heading 262
    Course 235
    Speed 11.4 knots

  6. Not a great advertisement for control by VTS

  7. Possible … what many folks often forget is that an (shipboard as well as shore based) ARPA (and hence any radar assisted VTIS screen) will only show the course over ground (CMG) of a vessel, not her heading.

    The only exception is a shipboard ARPA taking log speed (through water) as an input. However most navigators today prefer to take the GPS speed as n input.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.