Nautical Institute Presentation: ‘What you see is not always what you get
recent developments at CHIRP Maritime’
More than 30 members and guests gathered on 15th March 2018 for this presentation by Capt. Jeff Parfitt FNI, Director of CHIRP Maritime. After discussing the role of CHIRP Maritime and the importance of confidential reporting schemes, and mentioning CHIRP’s searchable database and recent trends in the content and analysis of reports, Capt. Parfitt took a detailed look at recent work involving research into eyesight and mistaken perception, which led CHIRP Maritime to join hands with University College London to try to understand more about the interaction between eye and brain. He introduced the new publication ‘Perception, Decision Making and Fatigue at Sea’ and described the initial findings as well as some of the questions CHIRP hopes to answer in future research. He also showed an excellent video on the topic.
Both the booklet and the video are available on the CHIRP Maritime website, and are highly recommended.
We learned that different parts of the eye should be used depending on the available light, and that it takes 30 minutes to establish night vision. Every time a watchkeeper looks at the ECDIS screen he/she is effectively destroying their night vision.
One frightening fact which emerged is that the human brain can only cope with four moving targets at one time. This has serious implications for any watchkeeper in the English Channel or the Singapore Straight, for example, and might possibly explain some navigational accidents.
Another interesting snippet is that it is quite difficult for the human eye to distinguish grey objects in the peripheral vision – which explains why many sports teams use a grey-coloured away strip (although it does not seem to have done the England football team much good).
In a thought-provoking case study, Capt. Parfitt discussed the recent publication of the report into the loss of El Faro, which places all the blame for the loss of the ship on her captain, despite making around 50 recommendations aimed at the US Coast Guard. He discussed the captain’s perception that his ship was well-found and fit for purpose, and questioned whether this perception informed his actions during that fateful last voyage.
It was an interesting and stimulating presentation. One potential talking point emerged from the video, where the UCL students unanimously assert that decisions made by groups are almost always more reliable than decisions made by an individual. They feel that a discussion by the bridge team before any action is taken will result in fewer accidents at sea. Sadly, they may be right, but it is unlikely to happen in our heirarchical maritime structures. In any case, imagine the following exchange on the bridge of a seagoing vessel:
Master: ‘Starboard 30’
Helmsman: Are you sure, Captain? I can’t help feeling we might discuss an alteration to port’
We must conclude that such democratic procedures are unlikely to emerge in the foreseeable future.
Jeff Parfitt is a professional mariner who went to sea with Shell in 1976, at age 16, and obtained his Masters certificate in 1988. He also served on general cargo vessels before he moved to the offshore world, initially anchor handling then moving into dynamic positioning, principally serving on dive/subsea construction vessels operating in the North Sea and on a global basis. He eventually worked directly for the Egyptian government as a project manager and Master of their newly acquired Dive Support Vessel. Jeff remained in the MENA region for nearly 10 years during which he drafted the Designated Person Onboard training programme for Egyptian DPO’s and also organised and conducted a double transit of the Gulf of Aden during 2010/11 at the height of the piracy crisis.
Prior to taking up the position as Director (Maritime) with CHIRP, Jeff operated as an offshore marine consultant to Technip (Abu Dhabi) and the global maritime insurance industry where he advised a state owned oil company in South America on maritime operational procedures with an environmental aspect.
He is a Fellow of the Nautical Institute and a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.