Overconfidence Can Be Crushing
By Captain Steve J. Coughlin, U.S. Navy
Every once in a while, we get a grim reminder that there is no tenure in the business of operating ships at sea. Resting on the laurels of past success can breed a sense of daring that can lead to
catastrophe. This was evident in 2012 when a deployed destroyer suffered a collision at sea with a fully laden supertanker. Thankfully, nobody was injured when the 160,000-ton vessel wreaked havoc and over $75 million worth of damage was inflicted on a warship caught in the unenviable position of “in extremis.” This case demonstrates how easily disaster can be avoided by strict compliance with the nautical Rules of the Road and how command climate can restrict decision-making on the bridge, which costs valuable time when every second counts. This story must be told, but to respect the privacy of those involved, the name of the ship is being withheld from this discussion. Regardless, the learning points are tremendously relevant.