July 2009


The skipper of the Port Royal was sleep deprived as he prepared to go underway.

Do you think surface warriors should get a minimum amount of sleep per night like aviators? Or are there sacrifices to be made when operating at sea?

Posted by Jeffrey Withington in Navy, Policy

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  • Charley Armstrong

    Short answer – yes, although I’m not certain that this accident would have not occurred had the skipper had more rest. But the larger issue of sleep deprivation is real and is at least a secondary causal agent in many accidents (and even more near-accidents.)

  • Rick Wahler

    I’ve read Lex’s stories of command at sea, and just finished “Destroyer Captain” by (now) Admiral James Stavridis. That is the thing that I found the most questionable–the lack of sleep that ship captains (and other key personnel, but the captain most of all) get. I find it hard to believe that WWII would have carried the same commitment and requirements, for the CO to be on duty for *every* operation. I know from personal experience the affects of sleep deprivation. The comparison with aviators is a good one. Probably a compromise between the two.

    Seems to me that ship captain would be highly sought, worked through aggressively with hope that it ends soon and clean. Relief that nothing career-ending happened.

  • ChrisInVA

    “Seems to me that ship captain would be highly sought, worked through aggressively with hope that it ends soon and clean. Relief that nothing career-ending happened.”

    Perhaps key is that career-ending events appear to include things which used to earn a slap on the wrist! The zero failure mentality is driving CO’s to require they be awakened for everything. Thus the sleep they get is fitfull and constantly disrupted, preventing the body from getting sufficient deep sleep.

    Until the Big Navy overcomes the “perfection” model, COs will continue to lose sleep.

  • I know that having been a DC type when I was active, I would much prefer that my skipper was fully rested should TSHTF. I think it would be great if some happy medium could be found so that surface warriors could get enough sleep to be alert if needed in a crisis.

  • Mike M.

    The zero-defects mindset is a problem, but it raises a question:

    Are there no other officers aboard capable of handling the ship? And if not, why? The last I heard, there was a nonzero probability of the captain of a warship in combat getting killed. Which implies that the XO had better be ready to take over…and the next senior officer ready to step into the XO’s slot.

    I also get the distinct impression that the SWO community has developed an ‘iron man’ culture, taking pride in taking a beating. Which is fine for a short time, but leads to serious trouble when it becomes a way of life.

  • leesea

    P.S. Navy bridge watchstanding pratices do NOT conform to intl merchant marine rules called STCW, and may not even meet DOT rules for transporation operators?

  • Derrick

    I would personally prefer that all of a ship’s crew be required to get a minimum of 8 hrs sleep between shifts. I’d rather they be operating at full capacity than be fighting sleep deprivation, especially during combat operations. But that’s just my preference.

  • sid

    With minimal manning, fatigue will certainly become a more significant factor than it has been. That said, fatigue has always been there to contend with, and combined with an unquestioning attitude towards the latest whizbang technology, can bite badly.

    Pehrhaps the most grievous example was the USS Blue totally missing the Japanese formation at Savo passing by her stern.

  • sid

    The hyperlink of google books won’t work here….

    The destroyers Blue and Ralph Talbot had the responsibility to screen the Slot for enemy ships. These ships had the latest radar and best operators in the fleet. All concerned, however, had greatly overestimated the capabilities of radar. The radar proved good only to about seven miles. The patrol lines of the Blue and Ralph Talbot were not coordinated and could create a gap of up to twenty miles. When Mikawa reached the screening pickets, Blue and Ralph Talbot were about fourteen miles apart. Mikawa’s fleet easily slipped between the two destroyers.

  • Grampa Bluewater

    The whole notion of fatigue management for watchstanders and Captains has been a big achilles heel for the surface subculture for over half a century. The bitter defeat around Savo Island was noted to be partially related to sleep deprivation in histories written in the sixties, if not earlier. In a combat zone, perhaps unavoidable, definitely a matter for command attention. On the Merchant Marine side, this was a big piece of the Exxon Valdez mess too.

    It’s particularly tough on folks past their early forties who’s endurance not what it once was, but who have convinced themselves they know how to function on minimal rest based on meeting the challenges they faced in their twenties and early thirties.

    Successful MM Masters in their fifties and sixties are very careful about managing their rest and exercise, for the most part.

    There really is no point in pushing past the limit of endurance for a post shipyard availability trial. People don’t have a capacity remaining before recharge indicator, so one has to be wary. You see the hazard to a hard charger who has nobody to tell him he’s pushing himself too far, like a ship’s Captain.

    This isn’t the whole story either. It’s never a single failure.

  • lesser ajax

    I would be more worried about the fact that the CO hadn’t been to sea in 5 years and took command during a long avail. Talk about setting yourself up for failure.

  • “Are there no other officers aboard capable of handling the ship? And if not, why? The last I heard, there was a nonzero probability of the captain of a warship in combat getting killed. Which implies that the XO had better be ready to take over…and the next senior officer ready to step into the XO’s slot.”

    Recall Bruce McCandless of the USS San Fransisco at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Japanese shells killed almost everyone on the bridge, including the admiral, and the next senior officer was down in the engineering spaces. That left McCandless, not just in command of the ship, but leading the column.

  • It’s not just a surface culture problem…

  • Grampa Bluewater

    Fast Nav:

    If you are thinking of the one in three 6 hr watch thang, I agree.
    Ditto hard charging CO’s who can’t monitor their own fatigue index.

    But submarine or cruiser, this is one of the famous hits golden oldie hardy perennials. Problem is, culture with a busted flush beats policy with a straight flush.

    Lesser Ajax: Naval (Line) Officers who turn down command at sea, under any circumstances, are scarcer than the teeth of the Dodo hen. Most of them succeed, or at least avoid ignominious failure.
    But to steal a line from an aviator, (HT/ Ernest K. Gann) – Fate is a hunter.

  • jwithington

    I wonder if a compromise could be reach between the operational reality and ideal condition. Perhaps at least 6 hours of sleep could be required?

    But as was pointed out by comments in an earlier post about sleep (https://blog.usni.org/?p=1561), it has as much to do with leadership and service culture.

  • sid

    I would opine that fatigue is not the primary causal factor here…

    Like many here, I have slogged through more than a few sea and anchor details dizzy with fatigue (more than few times when the ship was conducting equally distracting evolutions as well), and never got lost to this degree.

    Let me quickly say, its not that we old geezers were “better” somehow…We certainly were not…And thats just the point.

    In the last few years, there have been two major surface warships grounded in the approaches to two ports the USN has heavily used for over a century, and a submarine nearly lost due to grounding on a known (if not precisely located) hazard.

    There are glaring systemic isues at play here well beyond just fatigue.

    I would recommend a review of of this case and conduct a little contrast and compare exercise….

  • Grampa Bluewater

    The Coast Guard requires successful completion of a Bridge Resource Management course, adapted/inspired from the Cockpit Resource Management training the FAA requires for aircrews, to complete STCW requirements for bridge watchstanders.

    Initial classroom and simulator training (and continuing education) required for MM is going up, while the Navy is eliminating same for officers on surface ships.
    Unwise, IMHO.

  • Scott

    What about the culture of trying to please the inspection team? I can’t count the number of times and ways that we had to find a way to “please” an inspection/assessment/assist team. Knowing the circumstances (extended maintenance period, CO not at sea for 5 years, list of inop equipment), why didn’t the inspection team flat out refuse to be brought in close to shore at night just for their convenience? Or why would the CO not be comfortable in declining to do so on his own? Part of this problem is also the culture of “gaming” inspections.

    Without refreshing my memory on the exact details, this was similar to what happened when our SSN surfaced and sank the Japanese fishing boat – CO trying to impress riders and a more senior officer onboard (the ISIC) not preventing it from happening.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Whatever the problem, let’s reduce crews to a bare minimum for systems function, and see what happens. We will save money, and get to call it “transformational”.

  • Bill

    I was fortunate to have a DD command in the late 60’s. Many times it was wise to be on deck during continued maneuvers, even thou I was tired. Somehow the operating spirit of the times made sure that we caught catnaps between evolutions. Of course this demanded that we train and ensure that we felt safe in hitting the sack for a short time no matter what the stress of the moment might have been. One had to make proper use of the OOD and the XO if there was any doubt.I believe this was done by all successful skippers of the time. Why not now?

  • sid

    Whatever the problem, let’s reduce crews to a bare minimum for systems function, and see what happens. We will save money, and get to call it “transformational”.

    Qualified lookouts were on board for watch duty the night of the grounding, but they were working in the mess as food service attendants and were not allowed to assume the watch.

    Were these folks also expected to be bearing takers I wonder?

    As one who has swung an alidade at time or two, and stood lookout as well, those two jobs combined can distract from each other…Especially in a situation where one is trying to keep up with the nav marks in a dusk to dark transition against city lights, and the ship is manuevering.

    At any rate, it appears that no one on that bridge was keeping track of a visual danger bearing (seems only the Ops Officer understood that concept). Perhaps one of those kids messcranking could have done so.

    Gee, what is the marginal cost of an additional E-2 billet as messcook, versus the cost of one of the prime ballistc missile shooters sitting on the hard (for a $40 mil repair job) when its sorely needed?

  • C-dore 14

    I’m with sid on this one…the CO’s lack of sleep is a contributing factor here but not the primary one. I’m more interested in why they were tooling around out there with the fathometer and both bridge repeaters inop. I’d also like to know who signed off on the watchbills, who made the decision to leave qualified watchstanders on the messdecks, and whether or not the requirement still exists to have an individual’s qualification date listed.

    There isn’t a textbook solution for how much sleep a ship’s CO needs to function effectively, however, an experienced CO (which is what this guy was by virtue of his previous command) should have a good idea of his or her own limits. 15 hours over three days isn’t a lot but during high tempo ops 4-5 hours a night might be all you get. Even during normal ops I can count on one hand the number of times that I wasn’t called for one reason or another during the night in my two afloat commands. That’s why I’ve always subscribed to Bill’s philosophy of catching a catnap whenever possible while underway and a full night in the bag the night before the ship gets underway.

  • Are there no other officers aboard capable of handling the ship?
    Yes, there are. And as a former CVN navigator, I was one of the few/real CDO(Underway)’s who would take the CO’s spot on the bridge during flight ops or other evolutions (the other was the OPS O — XO also was part of the rotation) to ensure everyone was properly rested. Alas, I was also the one called during the night with contact reports. Best shipyard mod I ever did was to place the Furuno radar repeater in a position that I could see what the OOD was reporting while lying in the rack…
    – SJS

  • Grampa Bluewater

    I’m a leetle bit out of the loop, but I recall a lot of “oboy we’re going to paperless nav” a while back. So I have a question for the qualified LT’s. Forgive my uncertainty, but I think it makes a difference in a point I think is worth making.

    Do we still station a piloting party and plot on a paper chart? Or do we use an offset cursor(s) and/or some drop down screen on an ECDIS (electronic chart digital image system)? If you shift the input to the ECDIS from GPS to gyro, did you just make ECDIS a very expensive DR track?

    Can anybody who knows the ship or class please clear this up?

    No I don’t want you to get me a shawl for the rocking chair, thanks.

  • Grampa Bluewater

    Quote without comment from Honolulu Advertiser story on investigation findings:

    “Its recommendations included a supervisory-level navigation course, as well as an “operational pause” of at least 96 hours between shipyard availabilities and sea trials to ensure crews are adequately rested and prepared for underway operations.”

  • I highly recommend that everyone read the JAN 09 Proceedings article A Rude Awakening by Lieutenant Mitch McGuffie, U.S. NavyHere is a ‘lil taste.

    It didn’t take me long to discover that I was not the seasoned and accomplished bridge watchkeeper I had once thought. I was now being held to a much higher standard, serving alongside Royal Navy officers who had endured years of training and had been certified by the International Maritime Organization’s Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW). My new peers could recite rules 1 through 19 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, more commonly known as “Rules of the Road,” verbatim, navigate the ship in close proximity to land with little or no supervision, and instinctively apply the Radian Rule to determine how far left or right of track they were when using a headmark or sternmark. They could also operate the ship in some of the busiest waterways in the world with little oversight from senior leadership. These were just the most junior bridge watchkeepers, each of whom had been assessed and certified by the Royal Navy’s Training Command but had not yet attended any of the notoriously difficult navigator courses.

    Frankly, I was embarrassed at my lack of maritime knowledge and skills for the first few months of my exchange. My first 90-minute-long written Rules of the Road exam was a disgrace. I was accustomed to the U.S. Navy’s 50-question multiple-choice exams, and now I was being harshly critiqued on whether I mistakenly wrote a “shall” in place of a “should.” During one of my under-instruction bridge watches I made a shipping report to the captain and told him what my maneuvering intentions were. I followed by saying I was going to hail the other vessel on bridge-to-bridge radio to confirm her intentions, which is common procedure on U.S. ships.

    Within 30 seconds the captain was on the bridge, and I will never forget what he told me. “In the Royal Navy we abide by the Rules [of the Road] and we assume other vessels will do the same. If you truly understand the Rules and abide by them you should only have to use the radio in an emergency situation.”

    Look at how the British and Dutch do things. It can be done better, safer and more professional. On top of that, you can get a beer to decouple when off watch.

  • Grampa Bluewater

    CDR S.

    Yea verily and amen.

    Quote with comment:

    “The report also said bridge watchstanders silenced or ignored alarms calling attention to the position discrepancy.”

    Oh. My.

    Port Royal is in for a very hard time. Systemic, yes very, and too much inside her own lifelines.


  • swogo

    Having read the report (and Arleigh Burke’s) and stood deck watch on two VMS ships, here’s my $.02-

    The biggest single issue was that Port Royal didn’t learn from Burke’s grounding; the two are from a systemic standpoint identical.

    Gramp B – If you use the RLGN (Gyro) input to VMS *AND* the RLGN isn’t configured correctly to receive GPS updates, yes, VMS turns into a million dollar DR machine. There are other things about VMS and ECDIS-N that exacerbate the problem – navaid information has to be ‘pulled up’, danger soundings don’t always display correctly, the system alarms FAR too often (and erroneously), desensitizing bridge teams to alarms that actually need their attention (both of my ships, at various times, taped over the audible alarm for VMS; I counted 200+ alarms, open ocean steaming, during one 5 hour watch), and visual fixes entered into even a correctly working GPS plot often create that exact same ‘positional disparity’ alarm that the report mentions.

    Bottom line – there is fault to be laid at the CO’s feet, but it’s for going to sea without a finished product from the shipyard (fatho and radar repeaters) and for a lack of ORM processing NOT because he wasn’t well enough rested.

    I’ll also go so far as to say that it will probably happen again within the next five years, especially with SURFOR mandating VMS certification. There is a HUGE training disparity; you have to understand BOTH paper charts AND VMS to effectively navigate with VMS, and it’s too easy to push the “I Believe” button and trust the computer game. Also, frankly, even with two major incidents in five years, the processes to correct the issues (accession training, watchteam training, etc) just don’t exist. McGuffie’s article IS the definitive example of where we should be; we’re not even close.

  • Curtis

    No CO can do it all alone. He needs to have people he trusts to replace him when he is not there. The modern navy is very different from the old days. This CO showed up on a ship just out of many months in the yards and he had zilch on the background and experience of his subordinates. No fitreps, no background, no nothing. Which is as it was then.

    My first CO spent 7 months with me driving him around before he called an OOD board and shoved me through it. I stood the midwatch that night. With that board also came batteries release authority from the CO since we steamed at Condition III and the TAO was the OOD. That man had 7 months to make the call about me. I know for a fact that 6 of my peers were never going to, and never did make the cut. That was the surface navy back then in 1983. On the big ships we had an 03 who was nominally the Navigator but by dictate from above, the navigator was the XO.
    This cruiser just behaved like most cruisers and broke all the common sense rules. Who was the SWO? Who wrote and approved that Sea and Anchor Detail watch bill and put utter morons in charge everywhere? Is that we have left now on our cruisers? Morons? How long was the OOD aboard, how long was he qualified? How long was the ship in the yards? How the hell did that happen? Have all our watchstanding ranks decided that they should be off the watchbills? In my day every single officer on a ship except the CO and XO stood a regular watch and by God, when the ship was maneuvering in close both the CO and XO were on the bridge. It looks to me like all the senior LT and LCDR somehow wrote themselves off the watchbill.

  • ob. coming out of an extended yard period: Crawl-walk-run — it works…

    When I joined IKE, they were about a year into a planned 24 month/compressed to 18 month schedule. We had 2 prior deployment qual’d OOD’s left, and pretty much a green crew all around from a bridge watch team standpoint. With that in mind we begged, bargained and traded along the waterfront to get anyone who was going to stand a bridge or CDC watch underway time – even if it was just for a few days and on a small boy, it was still time away from the yard and doing the job they were meant to do. Also managed to cajole a deployment of YP’s from USNA to bring teams onboard to make practice runs into/out of Norfolk. That’s where I found out my QM1 couldn’t plot his way out of a paper bag, much less get underway from Pier 12 🙁
    We also (begged) the TYCOM and got funding to take the bridge team up to Newport and run them through the simulators while testing our SOPs. Gave everyone face time with the CO as well as an opportunity to make some initial assessments about abilities and shortfalls. Finally, hammered home to ALCON two themes in all our training – emphasis on fundamentals (e.g., mo-boards/comms/rules of road for OOD/JOOD and pilotage/celestial for QMs)and lessons learned from previous mishaps, all classes but especially CV/CVN’s, including IKE’s own collision w/a Spanish freighter in Hampton Roads. We would dissect each mishap and identify potential areas of concern that mapped to our own and work out ways to mitgate via training and SOP’s.
    It all paid off though as at sea periods came and went, all with the usual drama associated with the dynamic environment at sea, but no big(or little) bumps/crunch/scrapes.
    Comparing to Port Royal’s post yard — I’ll be blunt. On a CV/CVN (at least at that time) you had post-command O-5’s as your key DH’s (Nav, Ops, Rx) and an O-6 select XO. The relationship between a CV/CVN CO and post-command O-5 is different that of a CG CO and pre-screen O-3/O-4, that’s just the nature of the beast. Some of the things we were able to do (and here I also have to give kudos to a great and tireless ANAV) probably could not be replicated at the CG-level. Nevertheless, others, like the ship-rider program, probably could. Yes, it impacts the yard work packages as you are working with reduced bodies. Of course it means longer hours doing the sh*t work instead of pulling liberty @ 1400. It is, afterall, a shipyeard, not an extended port visit. Consider it a leadership opportunity…
    The cost, I think, is pretty evident when you look at the results manifest for a crew that was ill-prepared, and a ship not ready for sea materially or operationally. My 2-pence worth, if you will…
    – SJS

  • Grampa Bluewater


    Thanks. About what I figured. You made my point for me.

  • lesser ajax

    Could you elaborate a little on how VMS is employed? Are nav teams simultaneously using VMS and plotting paper fixes by GPS? Or are they totally dependent on the computer?
    Additionally, can anyone explain why PRL was not taking visual and radar fixes? I don’t think they would be at Sea and Anchor for boat ops, but you would think that Mod Nav would be set. I don’t see how gyro position error would equate to a gyro true bearing error sufficient to throw off visual fixes, and obviously radar fixes would not be affected by any bearing issues (as they rely on range only).

    “No technique works if it isn’t used.” – Niven’s Law #17

  • sid

    With the two bridge repeaters inop…Where in the world was CIC??

    Did all the time spend getting exoatmospheric cloud their thinking, and cause them to disregard their vital contribution in a ship’s evolution up next to the beach?

    The Belknap collision was caused in part by a CIC that had little regard for maintaining a surface picture (I knew some of the OS’s onboard).

  • sid

    I don’t think they would be at Sea and Anchor for boat ops,

    On the ships I was on, any time we conducted ops this close to the beach. CIC would be manned up with what amounted to a full nav team (or actually more like the nav part of the NGFS team at least), and kept a constant, independent nav picture.

    Is this no longer a routine thing?

    obviously radar fixes would not be affected by any bearing issues (as they rely on range only).

    Actually, a gyro error or no gyro input at all makes taking radar fixes extremely difficult. Especially if the ships is maneuvering and the cluttered picture rotates on the PPI. You would have to have a very savvy operator to do it well.

    And something tells me, thats an acquired skill that Grampa would say has been relegated to the Library at Alexandria.

    Not being a Luddite here. Just sayin’ that when you think the basics no longer apply because you are somehow different now that you are “modern”…beware of that Siren call….

  • C-dore 14

    lesser ajax,

    Granted it’s been awhile for me but there used to be a requirement to set the navigation detail and plot fixes anytime the ship was that close to land. I doubt that this requirement has been lifted in the “zero defect, hands on supervision, cover your six” culture of today’s Navy.


    The difference between the old Navy and today’s Navy could be found in the backgrounds of and priorities set by the folks in command. On my first ship (early 70s) all of my COs and XOs had at least one prior command and had been schooled in the fundamentals of shiphandling and navigation while coming up. Some were better than others but all three COs spent a good deal of time on the bridge teaching the JOs (note I don’t use the term “mentoring”) and evaluating their performance. When the Evaluator Watch wasn’t set the Dept Heads took their turn in the OOD rotation and were never off the watch bill. No such things as “qual boards” back then. I got my OOD qual when the Senior Watch Officer called me into CIC and told me “We’re going back to the gunline tonight and the CO is pulling LTjg X’s ‘ticket’. You’ve got the midwatch”. Was I (an Ensign with less than a year aboard) ready? Probably not, but I knew that the CO had my back and I returned the favor.


    As I remember it a contributing factor in BELKNAP/KENNEDY was that the CO was in the wardroom watching a movie while the ship was planeguarding instead of being up on the bridge where he belonged.

  • sid

    the CO was in the wardroom watching a movie while the ship was planeguarding instead of being up on the bridge where he belonged.

    From the Honda Point Grounding Court of Inquiry…True then. True now:

    The traditions of the sea are strong, the ideals high, and the rules which seafaring men set for themselves are rigid and hard. Only by living up to the most rigid of standards may the lives of women and children entrusted to the care of seafaring men be safeguarded as far as human effort may make them safe. If a Captain loses his ship, he loses his command even when attending circumstances point almost entirely to his complete exoneration from blame. The Navy can do no less. Each Captain that loses his ship must bear a responsibility due to that loss.

    And, it seems that VMS/ECDIS issues are not the sole province of the USN

  • sid

    As I opined over at CDR Salamander’s:

    Homer’s Sirens are alive and well. Nowadays, they have taken the form of LCD screens….

  • Grampa Bluewater

    Then there is set and drift…

    If you’ve turned your expensive VMS into a digital dr plot on the electronic chart by selecting the wrong switch line up, and you run around for a few watches without computing set and drift (set and drift are very easily done on a paper chart/plotting sheet with accurate on demand electronic fixes (of course you have to teach some folks a bit of vector addition and subtraction)), the current will degrade the DR position (which is not a fix) accuracy without you knowing it.

    It’s also easy – given proficiency – (on a paper chart/plotting sheet) to use set and drift vectors to compute course to steer to regain track at the next DR position for the chosen fix interval, and then course to steer to correct for observed/computed current to remain on track…until set and drift changes.

    While the Captain owns inescapable total responsibility,there is someone else not much mentioned in this discussion…

    “In every…vessel, there must still be…The Navigator…who seeks and uses every scrap of information to check his work, and who scrupulously avoids making an assumption unsupported by facts.
    Anything less than the utmost devotion to duty by the Navigator means his vessel will be unsafe and her mission may be left undone.” (Adm T. H. Moorer, USN, CNO – in the forward to the 1969 edition of Dutton’s)

  • For the record, I am not a fan of reduced manning being the primary raison d’etre of deploying advanced technology on our ships as there is still a physical aspect of war at sea that, by its nature, is manpower intensive (read: DC). That said, and lest we throw the baby out with the bathwater, and all become nautical Luddites in the process, please remember that technology isn’t inherently good or bad, it just is. If the proper perspective and command direction is employed, flat screens, ECDIS, GPS, etc. all have a place on the modern bridge and can substantially aid operations. . .as long as fundamentals of ship-driving are not wholly or substantially supplanted by said technological capabilities. It is, afterall, still a kinetic world out there.
    – SJS
    – SJS

  • sid

    lest we throw the baby out with the bathwater, and all become nautical Luddites in the process, please remember that technology isn’t inherently good or bad, it just is.

    Capt. SJS, your aviator’s perspective is significant here. This shift to electronic navigation on the bridge is as significant a change as that of the early “blind flying” days of Apollo Soucek and his peers. I’ve heard Brownshoes claim -with some merit- this experience gives them a leg up in their relatively late start in shipdriving.

    But as you know, even now, the death toll of those attempting VFR into IFR not up to the requisite proficiency standard still lingers.

    Indeed, even in airline operations, proficiency in assimilating electronic navigation methods in aircraft, requires careful and continual vigilance.

    At the same time, the FMS is a complex system that requires extended experience for pilots to gain proficiency it. Researchers [33], have noted that it often takes pilots as long as a year of regularly flying a glass cockpit airplane before feeling proficient in use of the FMS. Pilots are generally trained to be able to use almost all of the capabilities of the FMS, from programming simple courses, to “building” a course or holding pattern with navaids that are not part of a “canned” or FMS-stored flight plan in order to obtain the skills needed to pass a flight check. However, pilots are not given much information about the logic underlying much of the performance of the FMS, or shown many of the numerous options available to achieve identical goals in the FMS. This accident demonstrates that proficiency in the use of the FMS, without knowledge of the logic underlying such critical features as the design and programmed priorities of its navigation data base, can lead to its misuse.

    The MAIB notes the alarming spike of ship accidents caused by a lack of understanding in using electronic navigation systems. Like early on FMS training, I suspect that most VMS/ECDIS training is heavy on the routine “buttonology”, with little -or no- emphasis on the practical application of the system in a real world setting.

    Moving forward will require a change in the way folks are getting trained….And some quick and spiffy CBT modules will not be the answer. They will be tantamount to putting more trees in front of the flock lost in the forest. Keeping yet more ships off reefs and shoals will require some fundamental, deep, cultural changes.

  • Sid:

    Concur re. the training – even with flat screens, ECDIS and the like, we still trained the old way and emphasized the fundamentals. From the CO down the attitude was train like you’ll fight – which meant multi-hour battle problems in full MOP gear (it sucked); drill, drill, drill and then some more (every watch team knew the procedures for shifting steering to aft steering by heart and religiously practiced it for time on every single watch underway). You should have heard my QM’s when I said my first week onboard that they’d better be up to snuff on celestial because I expected a full day’s work from every single one.
    Oh the humanity 🙂
    Even challenged the QMC to a nightly celestial “shoot-off” and he kicked my tail, for a while. Wasn’t long before my plots were looking like his. Long story short – the Airlant eval team came onboard, took the GPS away right off the bat and no one batted an eye. Two days later, they gave up and let us have it back. We had the highest score ever of any CV on the waterfront for the Rules of the Road test and on a graded real-world, “get underway and return to anchorage with the duty section” evolution when we dropped the anchor back in the same spot we’d left from over an hour earlier – at night. Went from utter despair on arrival in the shipyard to real pride in my QMs and OODs when I left a couple of years later.

    and Grampa Bluewater — amen and a-men. Still have my personal copies of Dutton’s and Bowditch on my bookshelf in arm’s reach even 11 years after my last at sea…
    – SJS

  • Curtis

    I got the same schooling you got. My first ship was the Middle East Force Flagship at the height of the Tanker War. I had the XO pound on my door one evening and tell me that my OOD/SWO board would be held at 2100 in the CO’s cabin. I pointed out that I had not turned in any of the PQS for the position and he told me that PQS for this sort of thing was BS.
    That CO was on his 4th or 5th command and left LaSalle to command Nassau. His name was Franklin D. Julian. I thought he was outstanding. I had another CO years later who said, “you worked for spine-ripper?!”
    My ship driving training mostly came from the LCDR that wrote me up 3 times (not for ship driving errors; he just hated me and my division with a passion), but he was a very good ship driver and he taught me just about everything I needed to know in that respect. In every other regard, Tim was absolutely worthless.
    After my board, the skipper told me I had the mid-watch. I went up to the bridge later on and read the night orders and then arranged to have that ship at the Doha, Qatar rendezvous point at 0700. Have you ever looked at a chart of the offshore waters in the vicinity of Doha, Qatar? It was 1984 and we were not using any satnav since Omega was virtually worthless and nothing else existed except radar fixes.

    I don’t know about you but for me that was among the best moments of my navy career. An ensign with less than a year onboard elevated to OOD with weapons release authority. There were LTs on that ship that never qualified as OOD.
    I left that ship for a San Diego based DD and the skipper there was on his 2nd or 3rd command. Left there for department head school and headed for a ship where the CO had PT command and acting squadron command right after Vietnam. Great guy. All the rest were on their first command tour and total control freaks.