Cruise ship accident blamed on reliance on electronic chart and miscommunication

A cruise ship crew relied on an outdated map before the Alaskan pier attack
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Last year, a cruise ship damaged a cruise terminal pier near Sitka, Alaska due to factors such as an over-reliance on an electronic chart, miscommunication, and an outdated navigational chart, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The incident happened on May 9th, 2022 when the cruise ship rays of the seas was docking at the Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal. The vessel struck a mooring dolphin, causing a slight indentation in the hull and damage to three of the dolphin’s four piers. Although no injuries were reported to the crew and passengers on board, the occurrence led to $2.1 million in damages to the pier and disruption in cruise ship traffic to the terminal for the 2022 remaining season.

The NTSB report established that the crew of the rays of the seas relied excessively on an electronic chart and information system (ECDIS) and an outdated navigation chart to plan and carry out their docking. Furthermore, the Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal did not notify the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the pier’s extension, leading to inaccuracies in navigation charts that contributed to the incident. During docking, the boatswain and captain did not verify the nature of the distances during communication properly.

The NTSB drew two lessons learned from the incident, including proper voyage planning and reporting port or terminal changes. The report recommended that voyage planning entails developing a comprehensive plan for all voyage phases, including departing dock and mooring, precisely measuring and indicating reference points for maneuvers. The bridge crews should also ensure having up-to-date data and consult with local pilots on the accuracy of navigation charts to ensure correct port and/or terminal representations. Additionally, ports and terminals should promptly report any significant changes to port or terminal configurations to the relevant hydrographic authority, such as NOAA, so that charts can be updated and changes made available to crew members, ship owners, and operators.

In conclusion, the incident underscores the consequences of relying heavily on electronic charts and information systems and an outdated navigation chart. It points to the importance of proper voyage planning and reporting changes to port or terminal configurations. The shipping industry needs to take such lessons seriously to enhance safety and minimize incidents such as the one that happened near Sitka.

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