The British, predictably, has some of the best coverage of the Costa Concordia disaster. I posted a chart yesterday that purportedly showed the track of the ship “shooting the gap” between Giglio and a smaller rock off the coast – which, according to the BBC and Lloyds, may be inaccurate. The chart they are showing has the ship passing to the east of that rock – and also shows a similar track the ship took last year..
(Image via the BBC and Lloyd’s List)
Those two facts – that the ship passed to seaward of the rocks and that the ship had done a similar pass once before – may seem to exonerate the captain, but as a navigator I still look at those charts and shudder. Passing that close to land without a pilot is always a bad idea. Ships and the sea change from day to day – tides go up and down, currents go in and out. A ship that big can’t be counted on to respond to the rudder exactly the same way every day. The captain was merly relying on hope that the tides weren’t different, that the currents wouldn’t change, and that he would execute the turn EXACTLY the same way as he did last time – and hope is not a strategy.
The entire incident just underscores how important people still are to every day decisions – on a ship like that, nearly everything is automated, and the ship will literally drive itself, but they still don’t have a computer with common sense and a willingness to ask “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”