Colliding vessels caused by distracted bridge officers and cell phone use.

Fair Weather Collision Attributed To Distracted Bridge
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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that the bridge watch officers on a bulk carrier and an offshore supply vessel were not maintaining a proper lookout at the time of their collision near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, in July 2022. The NTSB concluded that the Bunun Queen officer was distracted by performing non-navigational tasks and the Thunder officer was distracted by cell phone use, which prevented both officers from keeping a proper lookout. The collision resulted in $12.3 million in damages to both vessels, but no injuries or pollution were reported.

The collision happened in good visibility, daylight, and fair-weather conditions, and both vessels’ automatic radar and plotting aid displays and automatic identification system receivers were able to detect the other vessel. However, in the time leading up to the collision, neither of the vessels’ officers maintained a lookout either by visual scanning or using the available electronic systems to prevent a collision. Both officers stated they were engaged in non-navigational tasks, with the master of the Thunder using his cell phone and the second officer on the Bunun Queen engaged in other duties.

The NTSB found that the collision occurred because both officers were distracted from their primary task of maintaining a proper lookout. Using cell phones and other personal electronic devices has been demonstrated to distract visually, manually, and cognitively. The NTSB recommended that non-operational use of cell phones and other wireless electronic devices by on-duty crewmembers in safety-critical positions should be avoided and never interfere with the primary task of maintaining a proper lookout. Moreover, the report noted that both the Thunder and the Bunun Queen had a single individual occupying the bridge. As such, the master of the Thunder violated his own standing orders by allowing himself to be the sole watchstander on the bridge.

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