EDITOR, The Tribune.
When the late Timothy Gibson composed the national anthem, he wanted to capture the essence of this archipelago. He warned us to beware of the wide and treacherous shoal.
Our sailors and men could do well to listen to the words as they stand for the anthem and salute at their next “morning colours” flag raising ceremony.
Anyone lucky enough to score a tour of the new patrol boats of the Defence Force would be forgiven for being perplexed trying to comprehend how any crew could run them aground.
The technology that is crammed into the wheelhouse of these ships will delight computer nerds and impress even those neophytes who are so afraid of innovation that they still can’t set the clock on a microwave oven.
How is it then that our sailors keep managing to bump into the ocean floor while supposedly navigating at slow speed? The incident involving HMBS Rolly Gray happened as they were, so to speak, backing out of their own garage at Coral Harbour.
The Prime Minister was unwittingly on to something when he in jest scolded the Commodore of the Force for “mashing up our boats”. Either the technology crammed into these vessels is inoperative, or our sailors simply don’t know how to use it.
Commercial passenger vessels are required to prove the seaworthiness of their ships and the navigational skills and training of the crew. Naval vessels are not regulated by a civilian authority and indeed it is up to the Commodore to ensure the highest standards.
Therefore, the PM was in fact speaking to the regulator of standards for the Defence Force, ie the Commodore, when he urged them to brush up on their navigational skills.
That fell just short of a direct order. As the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Force, the Governor General is the only civilian who can issue a direct order to the Commodore, but no military officer wants to upset a Prime Minister.
The Commodore would be wise to, in short order, present his line Minister with a plan to improve the navigational skills of all who lead Her Majesty’s Bahamian Ships.
Rest assured though that we are not alone. According to the US publication Navy Times, the current generation of officers rising into command-level billets lack the skills, training, education and experience needed to operate effectively and safely at sea. And that’s Uncle Sam’s Navy!
After a string of accidents, the US Navy instituted a pause to study the situation. They found that they had a growing reliance on technology onboard their ships which eroded basic seamanship skills.
In our case, it circles back to our failures in the educational system and the dumbing down culture that allows for admission and promotion based on “who you know” rather than on merit and experience.
The Prime Minister just became chummy with the Prime Minister of Canada. Perhaps he can ask Justin Trudeau to have the Royal Canadian Navy teach us a thing or two about navigation.
Our sailors need to go back into the classroom because on-the-job training is proving too costly for us taxpayers.
And if our Canadian friends can navigate the most treacherous ice shoals on the planet, surely, they can help us squeeze past the Coral Harbour breakwater and into open ocean, without scraping the hulls of our ships.
April 29, 2018.