Stories on Maritime Leadership

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Who moved the cheese?


The 2017 US Navy collisions


swiss cheese mini


“Things change and they are never the same again”
            -Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese?





The US Navy is a powerful navy, both in terms of sophisticated ships and trained navigators. When three of its ships collided in Asian waters in 2017, due to navigational errors, with the loss of seventeen lives, it’s reason enough for concern. If an organization such as the US Navy with enormous resources at its disposal, with robust systems can suffer such tragedy, what about shipping companies which in comparison, spend only a fraction on technology and training?

This added to my bewilderment with which I had been studying investigation reports on accidents which have happened with operators who represent the top quartile of the maritime industry in terms of safety standards. I have some answers now but I find it tedious to build all the arguments within the Swiss-Cheese model. I also know I’m not the only one having these questions or being sure of how it applies; see Article by Thomas V Perneger.

The US Navy has one of the best systems and training in the maritime domain. So, where are the holes in the cheese? The US Navy is rightly looking at organizational factors in improving the situation– but how do you explain loss of situational awareness? Or, the inadequate response in an emergency? Can these accidents happen without latent factors always being pre-existing?

I think yes. It’s sometimes possible. It’s accidents like these that made me come up with another model which represents the dynamic nature of risk and safety- as well as combines the concepts of safety management systems and that of safety-culture. The video below explains:

Video: Copyright Seawise Ltd. and Golden Stripes- Leadership on the High Seas.

As also mentioned in the video, the model is part of a larger context of leadership- both on the individual and team level. Both the barriers and the energizing aspects of safety-culture help the safe-man manage risks and stay away from dangers. The practical leadership skills such as for attention, focus and decision making skills which I’ve covered in my book Golden Stripes, help the mariner stay alert and react to unexpected-new hazards.

In the video, I’ve also provided a quick-reference slide to recap all you need to implement to ensure a high level of safety in your workspace. If you need a pdf document with this quick reference, mail me for a complementary copy at

Also see: My previous post on Safety Culture.

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