Mobile phones on the Bridge ?

John Campbell
6th January 2011, 09:25
It had to come. This article in Shiptalk.Com makes interesting reading

The UK P&I Club has issued an announcement in light of recent marine accidents involving distraction of the Navigational watch through the use of mobile phones.

The US NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) has issued recommendations to the US coastguard to produce policy on the use of cell phones on Coastguard vessels. Subsequently the Coastguard prohibited the use of mobile cell phones on Coastguard vessels.

It seems that on two separate occasions coastguard vessels have been involved in collisions which have resulted in many personal injury claims and the tragic death of a child. Investigation into the root cause of both collisions is still underway but it is understood that on both occasions watch officers were distracted from the navigational duties by text-messaging activities or conversations unrelated to vessel operations.

Similar Guidance has been issued by the UK Marine and Coastguard Agency (MGN 299) to all UK Flagged vessels highlighting the dangers of distractions caused by mobile phones and strongly endorses the recommendation of the development of a procedure to cover the use of mobile phones. Furthermore the MCA advises that consideration should be given to the prohibition of all mobile phones from the bridges of ships when navigational requirements demand the utmost focus of the Bridge team.

The Club has highlighted the issue to its members the potential – reminding them of the potential claims arising from collisions and that any distraction to the Bridge team from their operational duties should be avoided.

The recognition in the US of the dangers of distractions is weird because in most States you can still drive along on the freeways while chatting, texting, emailing or making Birds angry, etc...well you can until you crash.

6th January 2011, 10:11
John, Are you surprised? There have been innumerable incidents attributed to use of mobile phones on the bridge whilst navigating, since they first appeared in the late 1980's (some of which due to pilot's using mobiles!).
I for one am not surprised, particularly as it is US authorities who have conducted studies comparing mobile phone use and drunken driving as accident causes, with the former being found to be four times more dangerous as a distraction. My ex-employer (a US multinational) terms of employment bans the use of mobile phones (handsfree or not) whilst driving for all employees worldwide for over 10 years now; calls are monitored and any infringements result in disciplinary action. For the same reason use of mobile phones should be banned on the bridge of the ship.

Nick Balls
6th January 2011, 10:52
This was a serious problem in the UK Offshore industry at one point with everyone and their dog ringing up the ship as she came into port...including the likes of lines men, cargo surveyors, catering delivery. On the ships I worked on we had no formal policy in place but an informal one that the phone would simply not be answered while engaged in harbour movements. I have even had a superintendent being indignant and asking why we were not answering.
The problem is simply that the communications centre for the ship is now on the bridge and often these days it is not just a problem with phones but increasingly the mis use of E mail sending while an officer is on watch. Another area that should be strictly clamped down on.

6th January 2011, 11:09
A bit of a different slant on mobile phones onboard, a crew member phoned his wife within in minutes of an incident whereby his ship was in collision with a fishing boat, the dear lady called the shipping office straight after her husband’s call asking if there were any casualties because her husband sounded extremely distressed.
You’ve guessed it; the office did not know anything about the incident at the time the wife called in.
The Master/Ch/Eng were still assessing the situation, damage, man overboard, etc and had not had the time to put a call into the office to report the incident.

6th January 2011, 11:12
The cell phone can be a useful addition to the available tools if used with common sense and discretion.
A few times it has been the only working system.
The trouble is that discretion and common sense do not come into modern rule making so a prohibition is easier to regulate.
Hand held radios, when entering port are a bigger problem with every fool in creation blocking the working channels with chit chat.
Gulf of Mexico shrimp fisherman are particularly bad for this and can follow you if you change channels to relieve their boredom while trawling.
At most times the skills used for driving a car are different from those used for navigating a ship so the direct relationship is not there.

Mike S
6th January 2011, 11:44
I have a mental image of some of the old style Masters and their reaction to the dreaded mobile/cell phone on the bridge.

A delicate shade of purple would pretty well cover it!!

Turn the things off.

Simple Sir........we are busy. End of problem.

If you don't like that tough....................

6th January 2011, 13:19
The recognition in the US of the dangers of distractions is weird because in most States you can still drive along on the freeways while chatting, texting, emailing or making Birds angry, etc...well you can until you crash.

Talking and text-messaging with a cell phone while driving a car is illegal in New York State, and has been for many years now. Unfortunately, unlike Britain and Europe, in the United States traffic regulations such as that one are imposed on a State basis rather than a National basis. Consequently, there are still some states whose governments have not yet voted the cell phone ban into effect. Some states allow the use of cell phones in cars so long as they are equipped with an ear piece and are of the "hands-free" variety.

My personal opinion on the matter is that anything that distracts the driver's attention from driving the car is dangerous. The same principal applies on the bridge of a vessel or the cockpit of an airplane.

6th January 2011, 13:37
I remember when the only phone on the bridge was the one to the engine room, although when docking we rigged the 'Loudaphones' fore and aft. It was a nice quiet environment, which I didn't appreciate until I joined the RFA where they had lots of phones on the bridge and somebody was always ringing you up....... did my head in. What it must be like now with satellite comms and mobile phones I dread to think.

Round here it's amazing how many people use mobile phones whilst driving, often in the most unsuitable circumstances i.e. whilst overtaking, entering a major road, negotiating a roundabout even while parking....unbelievable and....a disproportionate number of them are females driving 4WDs...with children on board!!. The other group is lorry drivers who definitely should know better.

6th January 2011, 16:37
While I was on the Cape Hudson we had the Nor Control Engine System Full Navigation Speed Program activated due to a cell phone signal. The first time this happened we were in a convoy with ships ahead of us and on each side when the engine decided to ramp up its rpm while on Bridge Control. The Bridge moved the throttle handle down but the engine speed continued to increase. A shift to Engine Room Control did not decrease the speed until we used the emergency run switch which grounds out all of the control programs and the engine went back to the throttle hand setting. After the second time we were put on a short list to replaced the control system with a newer version that was not prone to external frequency triggering programs.

I was on one ship that the Captain hooked up an answering machine to the Satellite phone stating that we were unavailable to answer the phone due to maneuvering in restricted waters. It did not take long for the company to tell the Captain that they were dissatisfied with having a answering machine in use.


6th January 2011, 17:35
Banned private ones on bridges of ships I commanded almost as soon as they were invented! I found the OOW too busy talking to his girlfriend to answer my question!

7th January 2011, 09:19
An interesting solution I heard about when on a bridge team management course, was to have a small metal box, lead lined, on the bridge front, when manouvering or when p155ed off with the world, put the phone in and close the lid, signal lost.
Most phones give a different message when switched off rather than loosing the signal.
I used to go inside the electrical converter room to loose the signal then switch off the phone, before having a quiet trip up the river to our berth rather than talking to some of the muppets that would ring you up, if I was in a bad mood.

7th January 2011, 16:39
I work on accommodation rigs with upwards of 600 offshore workers on board. It can be a nightmare on the bridge with people calling up all the time asking after people on board. Mobile phones are not the only problem, the misuse of internal phones are just as bad. We get people ringing the bridge to ask for TV channels to be changed, want to speak to a certain person, what time is it, what time is dinner etc. Even at emergency drills you get people ringing the bridge asking "is it real or a false alarm?" just get to your allotted station and you will soon find out

1st February 2011, 16:48
A lot of modern bridge technology — Autopilot, ARPA, ECDIS, etc. gives a lot of opportunity to run off and talk on the phone, check email, correct charts, make sandwiches, whatever.

So yeah, banning cellphones on the bridge would be a good start.

1st February 2011, 18:38
A lot of modern bridge technology — Autopilot, ARPA, ECDIS, etc. gives a lot of opportunity to run off and talk on the phone, check email, correct charts, make sandwiches, whatever.

So yeah, banning cellphones on the bridge would be a good start.

autopilot,ARPA - older than mobile phones, not exactly modern, doesn't stop the old man chatting on the RT (which means he is not walking around talking and looking out the window).

ECDIS - no need for corrections.

Email - check it on the phone whilst standing at the window.

Sandwiches - where's the bread?

Perhaps a mobile is safer? If used correctly of course. (Jester)