A number of recent maritime incidents have had maritime lawyers concerned  about increased access to technology on vessels, and the accident risks from this. In one incident, reported by the London P & I Club in its Stoploss Bulletin, a recent pollution-incident was caused by a duty officer’s distraction.

The officer was apparently trying to make a Skype call on his laptop during his watch. The officer of the watch was listening to a news bulletin being screened on his laptop computer. As a result, he missed a radar target and a VHF warning call, leading to the incident.

In another case, the officer of the watch decided to use the Automatic Radar Plotting Aid to track 99 ships as they were transiting an anchorage, overlaid with radar images from the Automatic Identification System. As a result, there was an information overload, which the officer could not process. The result was a maritime collision.

According to the London P & I Club, there has been an increase in crewmembers’ access to technology on vessels. Technology has its benefits, but there has been concern about the use of such technology while officers are supposed to be at work. Using such technology at inappropriate moments could cause distraction from the navigation and operation of the vessel, contributing to a maritime accident.

Additionally, because of the increased use of technology on vessels, many officers have been found to be unable to process large volumes of information. When crewmembers are unable to process data, the information actually confuses them, causing them to make unsafe decisions.