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Eye on the Navy Collision at Sea! Pay attention! Communicate! Go out of your way to prevent the "error chain!" By Edward Lundquist Senior Science Advisor Alion Science and Technology If incidents involving collisions at sea have something in common with each other, it is that they all could have been prevented. With a compass full of courses to choose, only a few can put you in contact with another ship. When two ships collide, it is usually because one -- or both -- did not follow the "rules of the road" -- referring to the "International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea" (COLREGS). "Groundings are almost always selfinflicted wounds but collisions usually take two or more ships making a series The guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) executes a divisional tactical maneuver with the naval forces from Argentina, Brazil, Spain, and Uruguay during UNITAS 47-06 Atlantic Phase. The crew of the USS Samuel B. Roberts saved their ship after striking a mine in 1988. The frigate is still serving the U.S. Fleet today. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy) of mistakes at the same time and place," says Brian Boyce, a retired Navy captain working for MarineSafety International (MSI). Rear Adm. Dave Ramsey, U.S. Navy (Ret.), who also works for MSI, agrees. Ramsey says that one or a combination of seven factors can lead to collisions: 1) Confusion: The movements of the other ship or ships and one's own ship are not clearly understood. Invariably, the confusion could be eliminated if the ships communicated and were clearly aware of what each other's intentions were 2) Awareness: Hard to believe, but in the USS Arthur W. Radford mishap, the Arthur W. Radford was not aware of the other ship until too late. 3) Distraction: The watch is not attentive because of other tasks or not focusing on standing the watch. 4) Poor organization: Watch team duties are not clearly defined or monitored by the OOD. 5) Policy or doctrine: Captain's standing orders are not understood or followed. 6) Shiphandling: Many watchstanders really don't know how to handle their own ship in a tight situation, so they turn the wrong way or fail to maneuver properly. 7) Knowing how to use the tools available: Watchstanders don't know how to use the tools available to them and, thus, don't know which tool to believe. I'm speaking now of radar, ARPA, ECDIS, paper plots, even navigational aids." The common causal threads in U.S. Navy collisions is poor bridge management. Incidents such as USS John F. Kennedy/USS Belknap, HMAS Melbourne/USS Evans, USS Collett/USS Ammen, USS Waddell/USS Brinkley Bass, all resulted from the culmination of several errors the "error chain" - that were uninterrupted during the process, says Ramsey. 12 Maritime Reporter & Engineering News