Carnival UK, which includes Cunard, P&O and Ocean Village, is to commission a bridge simulator in Amsterdam following a close call incident between the Italian registered cruise ship Costa Atlantica and the panamanian-registered car carrier Grand Neptune in the Dover Straits in mid-May this year. All of the companies masters and deck officers will be required to have completed bridge team management, BTM, training by 2011. Masters and deck officers of vessels trading in Northern European waters will be required to have completed BTM training by 2009. The simulator is expected to become operational in 2009.
A recently released investigation report by the UK's Maritime Accident Investigation Branch revealed that it was the first time the officer of the watch, recently promoted to Second Officer, had stood a navigational watch as OOW and had never stood a navigational watch while transiting or crossing the Dover Strait. He had been on the vessel for less than a month, having joined it on 25th April.
The master was unfamiliar with Northern European waters, including the Dover Straits. He did recognise his second officer's inexerience and his own lack of familiarity. He increased the ship's radar scale to assess risks posed by other vessels and increased speed to reduce the time it would take to cross the Traffic Separation Scheme.
To cross the TSS south west lane, the Second Officer intended to alter course to take the vessel across ahead of another ship, the MSC Serena. As a check, the master used the 'trial manoeuvre' function on the ARPA, which should have predicted the outcome, but he did not enter the time parameter. As a result, the radar display showed the vessel's actual current CPA, not the predicted CPA after the trial manoeuvre, but is was this CPA on which the master based his decision to pass between Msc Serena and Grand Neptune.
Because the master and OOW were not familiar with the 'trial manoeuvre' function, the decisions now taken were based on inaccurate information. Had the second officer's decision been followed, Costa Atlantica would, in fact, have safely passed ahead of MSC Serena by more than 1 nautical mile. Also, had the master and OOW continued looking at their options they might have noted that there was also a better, safer, crossing option between two other vessels.
Costa Atlantica entered the south west lane of the TSS at a fairly shallow angle rather than the 90 degrees required by Collision Regulation Rule 10(c). This made it appear that she was running against the traffic flow and her inentions were not immediately apparent to the pilot on the bridge of the Grand Neptune. Although Costa Altantica was manoeuvred to pass close astern of MSC Serena and ahead of Grand Neptune, the movements were so small that it was not bold enough to be apparent to the pilot onboard Grand Neptune.
For the safety of its passengers, it was practice on Costa Atlantica to use a turning radius of three nautical miles. In this instance this meant that the turn was not immediately apparent to other ships. Under such conditions it might have been more prudent to lessen speed, providing greater flexibility while maintaining the safety of passengers.
Soon after entering the traffic lane, Costa Atlantica was on a steady bearing with Grand Neptune. Steady bearings are bad news. The second officer did not respond to the sitution until Grand Neptune was at a range of 2.46 miles with a CPA of 0.06 nautical miles in 4.4 minutes. The second officer increased the turn to port but, again, this was not apparent to Grand Neptune.
A further issue was that those onboard Costa Atlantica were unaware of the limitations of ARPA and that, while accurate during a steady tracking state, it is less accurate when one's own vessel is turning.
Given the uncertainties, and some difficulties in contacting Costa Atlantica, the pilot on Grand Neptune initiated a starboard 360 degree turn which resulted in a CPA of one nautical mile.
Fortunately the result was a close call rather than an accident with nearly 1,700 passengers on board the Costa Atlantica.
So, make sure you know how to run a trial manoeuvre and be aware unless you're on a steady track you may not be getting the right answers from your ARPA.
Take those few extra seconds to go through options when in a crossing situation, the chances are you'll find something better and safer.
Do remember to move like a stripper – be bold so there's no mistake about your intentions.