Offshore InjuryBlog

The Importance of Accurate Charts

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration is a maritime research organization that works to create accurate charts so that maritime workers can be accurately informed of the environment that is around them. Those who work for the NOAA do everything from weather forecasting to water charting, and they do it so that maritime workers have reliable information that they can count on. NOAA is a national organization, with workers in every state.

Those who work on charting vessels have an especially vital job to do. What they do is use sonar equipment to make nautical charts. These charts will give information to those navigating the waters so that danger can be avoided. They predict tides and project current patterns, and provide a look at the undersea terrain in deep water. "Surveying season" for the NOAA research teams begins in March and ends in November, just one week before Thanksgiving.

The Danger of Inaccurate Charts

Why are accurate charts so important? Without them, there would be a significantly higher number of offshore fatalities because of surprise storms and “seamounts,” or undersea mountains that damage ships traveling through deep waters.

For instance, in 2005 the USS San Francisco was traveling at 35 knots (40 mph) when it encountered a large seamount about 360 miles off the coast of Guam. The submarine was traveling at a depth of 525 feet when it suddenly struck the seamount, which was not on the navigational charts used by the submarine's leadership. The impact severely damaged the bow, killing a sailor while 97 other crewmembers reported injuries ranging from minor bruises to dislocated shoulders.

The sailor who was killed suffered a severe head injury that was “inevitably fatal,” according to the Navy report. The Navy investigation of the incident also found that the charts the navigation team were using had no record of the seamount, but available charts and updated records showed that there was a major undersea obstruction in the area. As a result of the incident, the submarine’s commander was relieved of his post—however, most of the punishment was dealt to the navigation team, who failed to “adequately and critically review applicable publications.”

Just a year later, a jack-up barge named Octopus was towed into an undersea obstruction that caused nearly $1.5 million in damage. The incident delayed the construction of a tidal energy generator, but fortunately caused no fatalties. Though the Mariner’s Handbook states that no chart is infallible, it is the responsibility of every captain or ship owner to create voyage plans based on the most recently updated and accurate maps available.

Planning for the behavior of currents, the existence of seamounts, and other navigational hazards are part of a ship owner’s responsibility. The lives of the crew depend on the accuracy of the captain’s navigation. If a navigator neglects to use the very latest information, every crew member is subjected to unnecessary risk and negligence.

Even with this type of information available, seamen are still at significant risk for accident and injury on a daily basis. If you are an offshore worker and were injured while performing your job duties, then please seek the help of an offshore injury lawyer from our firm. At Arnold & Itkin, we are known for our success in fighting for the rights of injured maritime workers. If this describes the help that you need, then contact a maritime lawyer at our firm today.

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