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July ship groundings: bridge systems to blame?

Wed 09 Aug 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

July ship groundings: bridge systems to blame?

Editor Martyn Wingrove questions why new bridge technology caused groundings on a new ferry and modern car carrier in Northern Europe in July

Bridge systems and software should not cause ship accidents. But they do. Failures in bridge equipment and ship software have caused two accidents in as months.

Only last week, we reported that an autopilot failure caused a new ferry full of passengers to strike the bottom of the Baltic Sea in Estonia. Ferry Tiiu, which entered service this year, struck the seabed on 28 July when the automatic steering system was engaged and failed to prevent the crash.

A bridge officer tried to rectify the problem, but was too late to prevent significant damage to the ferry bow, which has forced the new ferry out of service for at least a month and a half.

This followed reports that a brand new car carrier hit the sea floor in Germany in July because of a software fault. Siem Cicero, which was straight out of the shipyard, struck the bottom of the seabed in the Ems and Dollard area.

The ship master had to order two tugs to pull the vessel off the seafloor. The onboard software was corrected and the ship was allowed to sail, with an unforeseen delay in its schedule.

The link between these accidents is that they occurred with 2017-delivered ships where bridge operating technology and software should have been thoroughly tested before the vessels entered service.

Software and bridge technology should be on ships to aid officers to improve navigation safety and minimise the risk of groundings not cause them.

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