Why are lighthouses still necessary?


With GPS systems and other geographical technology being as sophisticated as it now is, do lighthouses still serve an integral purpose? Are they more now just in case the captain/crew lapses on the monitoring of navigation systems? Obviously lighthouses are more immediate and I guess tangible, but do they still fulfil a purpose beyond mitigating basic human error?

In: 5120

Yes, they serve a purpose. A *lot* of boats don’t have GPS, or don’t use it all the time, or can’t assume it’s always working.

Do big modern cargo or cruise ships need lighthouses? Not really.

Does maritime navigation need lighthouses? Absolutely.

You can have a failure of electronics on a boat.

GPS can possibly be jammed in time of war.

Redundancy. The same reason that in aviation we still have towers that were used in WWI.

We can use the swiss cheese model in every single proffesion. Sometimes, the good stuff fails.

Safe navigation requires more than one way to fix your position.
It is pretty unlikely (yet possible) that all your electronics including handheld GPS or smartphone fail at the same time, but even if they don’t, GPS can lead to faulty navigation. Several possible reasons come to mind:
– Programming the wrong waypoint, easily done by making a typo.
– Using the wrong chart datum. Sea charts use different reference systems (datums) that have to coincide with the datum used on your GPS.
– GPS position accuracy varies, so in some narrow channels, it might not be sufficient.

When you are at the wheel steering, landmarks give instant and precise feedback while GPS always has some delay and uncertainty.
This makes steering easier and more accurate especially because boats and ships need some time to react to movements of the wheel.

Even if all cars had GPS that gave directions and told you which streets you have to stop at, you’d still want the signs up wouldn’t you?