U.S. Navy needs better procedures for driving a ship

Paul Lobo nails it in The Maritime Executive in a piece called Collisions Show That “Navy Way” is the Wrong Course:

In addition, there are far too many personnel on Navy ships, which is not only costly, but can be distracting when cruising at 25 knots. Consider that a modern 1,200-foot commercial container ship operates with only about 20 seafarers aboard, and the ship owners are talking about unmanned ships as we speak. A destroyer like the USS McCain has 281 men and women aboard. I have piloted several carriers and counted as many as 40 people on the bridge while we were entering port, and it makes for a distracting work environment. The Navy culture relies on the use of many assistants. There are advantages to the system, to be sure, but aboard ship, without one individual “running the show,” the potential for confusion and error increases exponentially. Yet, still, the Navy way continues.

We don’t know for sure that poor procedures are the cause of the collisions of USS Fitzgerald or USS McCain. But we do know that poor procedures generally cause accidents, and the U.S. Navy’s procedures for driving a ship are just ridiculous.

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