'Technology to support these ships has not caught up with them': Cork captain weighs in on Suez Canal incident

'Technology to support these ships has not caught up with them': Cork captain weighs in on Suez Canal incident

Appearing on DW News, Captain Bill Kavanagh, who knows the canal quite well having passed through it a number of times, said that although investigations will take a long time to conduct, it is evident that technology to support such mega-ships “has not caught up with them”. Picture Denis Minihane.

A lecturer in Navigation at the National Maritime College of Ireland in Cork has weighed in on the grounding of a ship in the Suez Canal in Egypt.

A colossal container ship had been stuck sideways for nearly a week in the Suez Canal before it was dislodged on Monday.

The Ever Given was safely anchored Tuesday in the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south ends of the canal, after salvage teams succeeded in finally freeing the vessel.

Maritime data company Lloyd’s List said the blockage had held up an estimated $9.6 billion worth of cargo each day between Asia and Europe, as more than 10 percent of world trade normally passes through the canal.

An investigation into the events leading up to the ship becoming stuck is currently underway.

Appearing on DW News, Captain Bill Kavanagh, who knows the canal quite well having passed through it a number of times, said that although investigations will take a long time to conduct, it is evident that technology to support such mega-ships “has not caught up with them”.

“It’s going to take a long time to investigate this incident and it’s not possible right now to define exactly what the problem is.

“In all these critical cases in safety-critical industries, it takes a long time to conduct an inquiry and it is very rarely one single reason why an incident occurs, it is usually a number of incidents that occur in what we call an error chain and eventually those errors lead up to an incident.

“So it’s very difficult at the moment to predict or to analyse exactly what happened we do know some information, we know that the wind was strong, we know that the vessel was steering somewhat erratically prior to the incident but other than that until they get the voyage data recorder and analyse the technical parameters it won’t be possible to definitely say the reason for the incident,” he said.

Captain Kavanagh said that navigating through the canal is “not so difficult” for most vessels because it is “pretty straight forward” but emphasised that in recent years ships have become “very large”.

What I would like to emphasise, however, is that in recent years ships have got very large, very big, these are mega-ships that carry 20,000 containers and I believe that the technology to support these ships has not caught up with them, therefore, tugs tend to be the same tugs they used in previous years, procedures tend to be the older procedures.

He said that new precautions and new procedures are needed to get these ships through safely and that a risk analysis regarding mega-ships is required to prevent such an incident from occurring again.

“I think they have to conduct a risk analysis regarding mega-ships compared to traditional sized vessels,” he said.

Captain Kavanagh said that one means would be to have tugs connected to the ships at all times throughout the passage so that if there is any deviation from the expected course, the tugs could assist in keeping them on course.

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