Having watched in astonishment as the collier Pasha Bulker washed up between the flags of Newcastle's main beach in 2007, the case of the cargo ship Rena hitting a reef off New Zealand feels like deja vu.
The unanswered question in both cases was, 'What the ...?'
Astrolabe Reef, where the Rena is precariously perched, has been noted on charts since 1827. It's mentioned again in the latest New Zealand nautical almanac. The evening was a perfectly calm, balmy even, and the navigational equipment was fully functional.
So. What the ...?
MV Rena grounded on Astrolabe Reef, Tauranga.
It has been claimed that the Rena cut a corner in its haste to reach port. Fatigue may have been a contributing factor but the simple answer was human error.
Human error caused the Chinese coal ship Shen Neng to hit the Great Barrier Reef last year.
The Pasha Bulker's captain erred by having breakfast at a crucial time.
The HMS Nottingham hit Wolf Rock, off Lord Howe Island, because of a blunt pencil – the navigator drew a course across the map and obscured the rock reference.
In 1998 the cruise ship Monarch of the Seas struck coral off St Maarten because the captain was stricken with diarrhoea and left the bridge.
We mere recreational mortals can learn something from the pros here. Don't cut corners. Get plenty of sleep and regular meals. Sharpen your pencil and avoid vindaloo.
Oh, and don't just leave your fate in the hands of electronic charts or a novice skipper, or you too will end up on the rocks as surely as your best scotch.
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