Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Container Ship Crash - Lost in Translation

The investigation is no where near over but it sounds like there was a serious translation mishap on the bridge of the Cosco Buscan (the ship) when a critical piece of equipment failed. According to this Chronicle article:

"The pilot had to go along with what the master indicated on the electronic chart display was the center of the span," Meadows said. "That turned out to be the tower instead."

When the radar failed, the pilot (experienced local SF bay pilot), switched to an electronic chart, and because he wasn't familiar with their system (apparently they're all different - not a surprise), he asked the Captain to point out where the center of the bridge span was on the radar so he could place it in the center of the display and in turn have the ship head in that direction. It's starting to sound like the Captain misunderstood and pointed directly at the tower instead. Oh ouch. This is why we have local pilots, but if the primary equipment fails then "Houston we have a problem."

I'm wondering if there should be a way to standardize the equipment on the container ships or insist that if the primary equipment fails that the ship has to stop (tough for a huge ship) and let tugs do the steering instead. But what do I know about large ships? I only know how to sail and the basic "rules of the [water] road" and I live here on the bay, so I'm just a bystander in all this.

But these lost in translation issues are bound to happen with international commerce coming to town in really large ships. It's a wonder it doesn't happen more often. So we need to plan for a faster way to deal with it or prevent it as it's a nasty surprise for a migrating sea bird. Sort of way outside their experience.

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