Normalization of Deviance and Cruise Ships

Good reading from New Scientist on Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster.

Why was this massive ship so close to shallow rock outcrops?

Mark Staunton-Lambert, technical director of the London-based Royal Institution of Naval Architects, says this is the main question investigators will want answering. GPS and sonar instruments should have warned of the danger, he says.

Why might the Costa Concordias depth-sounding sonar have been ignored?

Like aviation, seafaring is in the midst of major computerisation, with bridges in modern ships like Costa Concordia becoming “glass cockpits”. The transnational maritime trade union Nautilus International says that the technology at the heart of this – the Electronic Charts Display and Information System ECDIS, which marries GPS and seabed sonar data in one screen – can be a problem. First, it says that the data on seabed obstacles can be out of date; second, the system generates too many alarms that can lead mariners to ignore them. “The ECDIS screens are only as good as the data that goes into them,” says Nautilus spokesman Andrew Limington. “And there are major problems with their user interfaces and ergonomics.”

via How stable are cruise ships like the Costa Concordia? – tech – 16 January 2012 – New Scientist.