It seldom occurs to surface warriors to consider how they are viewed by U.S. civilian merchant mariners, despite almost constant interactions. In light of recent events in the Seventh Fleet, I spoke to Captain John Konrad, a civilian mariner who is licensed to master ships of unlimited tonnage. His perspectives are instructive and worth serious consideration.
Coming across a warship at sea can be challenging. No one can easily divine a warship’s intentions. Is this a point-to-point transit or an operation that will result in sudden and unpredictable course and speed changes? In addition, because merchant ships typically only have one lookout charged with many responsibilities, a warship’s small changes in course may not be noticed for some time, and changes in speed not at all. Normally it is not a problem when two merchant ships meet at sea, because they are relatively slow and predictable in their behaviors, and when they steer to avoid another ship they make it a point to be obvious, almost oversteering.