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Britannia Maritime Consultants: Technology and accidents at sea

Paul Martin, an experienced consultant and former pilot, skilled at casualty investigation and management, has this year formed Britannia Maritime Consultants in Singapore. In his interview with Maritime CEO, Martin warns that technological advances are not always a panacea to safer seas.

“Technology is only as good as the people that operate it and it seems that most accidents are a result of human error, Martin says, adding: “Whilst technology undoubtedly makes it easier to know where you are in real time, and also to know the names of other ships, there can be a temptation to take the data as gospel.”

Martin argues that if officers rely on AIS information, they may not be getting the full picture, particularly if a vessel’s ‘status’ has not been updated on the other ship’s AIS unit. “Electronic charts are wonderful additions to the navigation world, but safety contours and depths can be input incorrectly and have led to accidents,” Martin points out.

Technology also means officers are losing some of their core seafaring instincts, Martin believes.

“When position fixing was often visual and before AIS/ECDIS, it was very instinctive, as basic as it sounds, to look out of the window, but in my opinion, this instinct is disappearing,” he says.

The use of simulators in assessing an officer’s skills can be a useful tool, he admits, but ultimately it will be for vessels’ senior officers to ensure that this instinct is not lost forever.


  1. Well said and unfortunately all too true. Integrated bridge navigation systems relieve the burden on the navigator considerably, but are only effective in the hands of competent users. All too often accidents occur because operators are unfamiliar with the limitations of the kit. ECDIS is becoming a comfort blanket and looking out of the bridge window anachronistic.

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