Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Look Out the Window


Jim Parker

"Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment." - Will Rogers

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we pay dearly – other times we escape unharmed but wiser for the experience.

Tuesday the 13th of October was the first day of a two-day gillnet opener for commercial salmon in Washington State's Hood Canal. Gillnets are a simple but effective method wherein a long curtain of net, with floats at the top and weights at the bottom, is deployed in such a way that fish of just the right size and shape get caught in the net behind the gills. Fish that are too small swim right through, and fish that are too big don't get caught.

It was a clear, calm day on Puget Sound, and gillnetter Jim Parker was hoping for a productive day to supplement what had been a tough Alaska salmon season. He was surprised instead to catch a nuclear-powered submarine – one of ours, fortunately – while another fisherman had to cut his net free of the boat. Several other gillnet boats and crews watched in surprise.

Of the 14 "nukes" stationed at nearby Naval Base Kitsap at Bangor, Mr. Parker's catch was most likely the Seawolf-class USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23).

At press time the US Navy hadn't returned our calls for more information on the incident.

ECDIS, AIS and electronic aids to navigation have arguably made navigation safer and more reliable that ever before, and every year at the Pacific Maritime Magazine eNavigation conference we're told about technological advancements and the great strides we have made from the days of paper charts and Loran-C.

The US Coast Guard defines situational awareness as "the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission." In other words, know what's going on around you.

Coast Guard analysis of navigational mishaps for cutters and boats revealed that 40 percent were due to a loss of situational awareness.

The submarine involved in last month's incident is no doubt bristling with more electronic detection and navigation gear than a modern commercial mariner could dream of, and yet the vessel plowed blindly through a fleet of gillnetters and their gear.

As discussions at our annual eNavigation conference invariably turn to the tremendous strides in navigation and modern bridge equipment available to modern mariners, there is universal agreement on the need to maintain situational awareness, and to step away from the navigation screens on a regular basis to look out the window.


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