ITU150 in September: Navigation and Innovation

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Innovating with Bill: How do we stay safe at sea?

Navigating the seas safely is not just important for the lives of the people on board; shipping plays a vital role in today’s economy, with over 90 per cent of the world’s trade carried by sea. Having navigated the seas for 20 years and rising to the rank of Master Mariner, Captain Bill Kavanagh now trains the next generation of Officers at the National Maritime College, Ireland.

If you ask any seafarer their reason for going to sea, chances are they will all tell you the same thing: to see the world. At the age of 18, I circumnavigated the world in six months on my second trip as a cadet. The coastal voyage took me to Spain, South Africa, India, Japan, and beyond. Since those first trips at sea, I have commanded a 100 meter long, 3,500 tonne ship across Europe, and navigated a 174 metre, 27,000 tonne ship through the Persian Gulf.

Though these vessels may seem large, 94 large ships went missing in 2013. At any given point, you can be hundreds of miles from the coast, with help hours, even days, away. But navigating the seas safely is not just important for the lives of the people on board. Over 90 per cent of the world’s trade is carried by sea; the efficient transportation of cargoes impact on both consumers and the global economy. A typical passenger ship might consume over 200 tonnes of fuel per day, so fuel efficiency is important to retain competitiveness.  A collision could cause a breach in the hull of the fuel tank and cause extensive damage to the marine ecosystem. Therefore, safe navigation is paramount.

After 20 years on board, sailing multiple routes on a variety of ships with different crews, I know that each role on-board plays a vital part in ensuring a ship’s safe passage between ports.

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