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Should a Ship Leave Port When Needed Equipment is Missing?

No one knew where the ship's binoculars were located, when Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage. As it happens ... the binoculars were actually aboard, locked safely away in the Crow's Nest cabinet, but the person who knew that was no-longer onboard.

David Blair, who was scheduled to make the transatlantic crossing, was replaced by Charles Lightoller not long before the ship left port. As Blair left Titanic, he had the locker key in his pocket but forgot to give it to Lightoller. The change-in-personnel likely saved Blair, but it cost others their lives.

Fred Fleet, the Crow's-Nest lookout who survived the disaster, testified that if he'd had the binoculars he could have seen the iceberg in time. How much in time? "Enough," he said under oath, "to get out of the way." (See Fleet's testimony, section 5358.)

How likely is it that a passenger ship, like Titanic, would be allowed to sail today without the crew knowing how to access (and properly use) every piece of important equipment? Explain your answer.

Can you think of a situation in today's world that might compare to Titanic's problem? (HINT: What about the Boeing 737 Max 8 and its stall-prevention system?)


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