SANCHI tragedy and profanation of navigating

Speculations on SANCHI tragedy, causes and consequences, are still going on, along with inevitable emergence of sabotage and conspiracy versions.
Nearly all speculations on collision itself and why should it happen, justly assume, that both ships are guilty, both bridge watches and Masters are to be blamed, though in different shares.
There is a factor, which may contribute to collision, or even be a main cause, of which factor we don’t know anything yet. I mean presence of other ships, merchant or fishing or both, in close vicinity of SANCHI and CF CRYSTAL at the time of disaster. Was the area near two ships going on collision course clear for maneuvering even for such giant, as SANCHI, or there were other ships, which could hamper evasive maneuvering?

We don’t know anything about CF CRYSTAL maneuvering, she’s docked at Chinese port, with Chinese authorities seemingly, in no hurry to release any ship’s navigation data. I have little doubt, if any doubt at all, that there’s a reason behind this silence – after all, big money are at stake. Not just the cost of lost tanker with all hands and cargo of oil, and damages sustained by CF CRYSTAL, but probable claims from SANCHI crew families, from Iran and coastal States of Korea and Japan, from environmentalists and fisheries.
I have no doubt, that China will try to downplay CF CRYSTAL guilt, from lessening her role in collision down to claiming her total innocence.

And of course, nearly all analytics are speculating on GPS and AIS signals and the role faulty or failed signals could play. Probably it’s true or partially true, but I find their principal approach to that electronic safety to be basically wrong and dangerous for navigational safety. They allege GPS and AIS to be the main instruments in navigating, including navigating in dire straits and evasive maneuvering. It is not so, and it mustn’t be so, however much it is desired by many – those who’re interested in mandatory ECDIS, first of all.

Thoughtless and absolutely irresponsible (but very profitable for some) propagation and enforcing of E-navigation as the main type of navigation, not just leaves the whole of world fleet at the mercy of electronics reliability and capability, it’s much worse than that. It’s transforming navigators into electronics slaves, it’s degrading their navigational skills down to operating several basic programs, with electronic screens being the main reality. It’s degrading educational level as well – anyone can be taught to operate E-navigation, in no time. Add to it the vast knowledge of check-lists and the best ways to deal with hordes of inspectors, from PSC to Trade Unions’ racketeers, and you’ll have an efficient modern bridge officer, according to CEO standards and understanding of navigation (those CEOs being one of the main plagues besetting modern shipping). It’s not navigation, it’s profanation of it.

E-navigation and finally, unmanned ships, are a reality, but we should proceed ahead sensibly, with due care and full understanding of, as of now, highly unreliable electronics, when it comes down to dire straits and collisions. A skilled professional on the bridge is still irreplaceable.

In case somebody didn’t yet get it – they (all those who’re behind U-Turn to E-navigation) equal E-navigation safety and reliability to navigation safety in general, they make it look like there are no other ways to navigate the ship, except ECDIS and the rest of it, which is a basic lie. They’re saying, that the only way to make navigation safe is to make ECDIS safe, by as costly means as possible. It’s a lie, it’s I’d say, a criminal lie. Let them do E-navigation safe, they have all the time and money required, but meanwhile, they (including of course, IMO) must recognize the reality – navigational safety can be, and must be, provided with conventional navigational means and skills, backed by E-navigation, not vise-versa. But instead, they’re killing those skills.
SANCHI tragedy isn’t the only tragedy caused by navigational profanation, there are other cases. Last year, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan, killing seven American service members in June. Two months later, 10 U.S. sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, collided with a chemical-and-oil tanker near Singapore. In April Russian Navy spy ship LIMAN sank after collision with Lebanon live stock carrier YOUZARSIF H in Black sea. In all those cases (there are more), electronics were the main cause –not electronics, to be exact, but total reliance on electronics, and as total profanation of conventional navigational skills.

More tragedies are to come, I have no doubt about that. As well, I have no doubt, that the tragedies which already happen, and are bound to happen, will be exploited by those who’re profiting from E-navigation primary role, with wholehearted support of industry media, of course. Major media, crucial for forming public opinion, are the factor which can be considered as irreparable, for the time being. They’re long and far beyond common sense and morals.

A second part of SANCHI tragedy is the fire, deaths of all the crew and quite a number of questions which should be asked, and hopefully, answered. I’ll try to look into it in my next article.

Voytenko Mikhail
January 22, 2018

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