Rules floated for electronics used in navigation

Heavy fog restrictions, universal electronic shipping aids and requiring pilots to carry laptops have become the focus procedures and policies for Bay Area ship pilots in the wake of the Cosco Busanincident.

The preliminary investigation by the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association highlighted the potential need for pilots to carry laptops or enhanced PDAs with electronic charts on board as well as possible restrictions in ship movement in specific areas of the Bay during heavy fog.

On Nov. 7, there was dense fog, and questions have been raised about the symbology used on the Cosco Busan’s electronic charting system — used after the ship’s two radars allegedly malfunctioned.

Ship operators may have steered toward the tower when they thought they were steering toward safe passage underneath the Bay Bridge, according to federal investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board.

In addition, the government, the International Maritime Organization and the shipping industry are also exploring how to bring some order to the jumble of electronic navigation aids proliferating on the seas.

While the cause of the accident is still under investigation, the pilot in that episode told authorities there was confusion between him and the ship’s captain over symbols on an electronic charting system while the vessel made its way through a fog bank.

The NTSB and the Coast Guard are looking into the possibility of miscommunication, perhaps even a language barrier, in the incident.

Investigators with the NTSB hope to have information from the ship’s voyage data recorder — akin to a airplane’s black box — transcribed by week’s end, but that information is not likely to be released right away, officials said.

AP contributed to this report

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