Technology - friend or foe?
The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the original author or contributor. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the UK P&I Club.
As the years have progressed, so has technology. In the not so distant past, computers were a thing of luxury however they now deemed more of a necessity. We are becoming increasingly reliant on this assistance but should it be considered a friend or foe?
Of course there are countless positives gearing technology as more of a trusted friend than an enemy. In the shipping world specifically it has allowed crews to stay in contact with their loved ones whilst on long journeys. Kit such as ECDIS and AIS have been developed to make voyages safer and more precise. Programmes have been made to remotely monitor your refrigerated containers on board. All of this has been a blessing and has served to reduce claims, but what happens when it all goes wrong?
Whilst it may be comforting for crew to have contact with their friends and families back home, is it not sometimes safer to be unaware? Aside from the total FOMO* they may face, there is also the worry that they could find something out which would affect not only their ability to perform their job efficiently and safely but also their mental health. Being secluded in a cabin with only the internet for company can effect the sense of community on board, with people spending less time getting to know each other it makes building relationships and working together more difficult. Our recent blog post for mental health awareness week touches on five steps seafarers can take to ensure that their mental health does not suffer and unsurprisingly one of the points is to avoid social isolation - you can find that post here:
In terms of the electronic kit on board the vessel such as ECDIS charts, whilst this in theory seems to be the perfect solution to all of our problems we have to consider what to do when this fails us. We can't deny that technological issues happen - we've all wanted to throw our computers out of the window at some point right? GPS signals can drop, alarms can be turned off, there are a whole range of things that can go wrong. This is why we need to ensure that crews are thoroughly trained in "old fashioned" navigation as well as how to use these electronic systems properly. We need to use our intuition, our senses, our skills and not rely purely on technology to do our jobs for us. Having the skills to deal with a situation when technology has failed us will not only serve to limit claims but it could save lives.
By no means can we say that technology is a negative thing, it is an amazing and useful tool but we need to ensure that it is not relied on too heavily and that we have proper procedures in place should it all go wrong. We are all guilty of over relying on technology. Terrible with directions? Not a problem because Google Maps is installed into all iPhone's, but what happens when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, phone battery has died and you've never learned to read a map?
Here you will find an article featuring our Senior LP Executive George Devereese regarding navigation skills.
If you would like any further information or training advice please do not hesitate to contact the Club.
*FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out
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