Choosing the right spot to Anchor!

CHIRP Comment: In the following report a Harbour Authority has decided to share an incident for the benefit of others.  The Maritime Advisory Board is grateful for this report and encourages others to do likewise.  The Board also wishes to recognise the high quality of the results of the internal incident investigation.

Harbour Authority Report Text:

A recent collision between a commercial ship and a small sailing craft at night gives us considerable concern that insufficient heed is given by leisure users not only to the status of the main navigation channel but also to basic safety and reporting measures.

On the night in question, a cargo ship which had departed port encountered a small sailing craft which had anchored directly in line with a pair of leading lights which indicate the deep-water channel.

It was a dark night. Although an all-round masthead light was lit, it was lost among street and vehicle lighting ashore. No additional lighting was provided to illuminate the vessel (e.g. deck lighting) as suggested in Rule 30(c) of the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea.

The sailing vessel did not present a conspicuous radar target to either the shore-based radar or the ship’s own radar.

Although the sailing vessel had contacted the Coastguard to advise the location in which it was anchored, no call was made to the Harbour Authority to advise that it was at anchor in the main shipping channel, nor was similar advice received from the Coastguard.

A combination of the above factors resulted in a collision between the two vessels. Were it not for the last-minute avoiding action taken by the outbound ship, there is little doubt that the outcome would have been severe or fatal injury to the occupier(s) rather than the superficial damage caused to the anchored sailing boat as the ship scraped along the side of it.

Points which might be reasonably made include:

  • Do not anchor in the main navigation channel. If this is unavoidable (due to an emergency, for example) you should contact the Harbour Authority immediately, advising position and type of vessel.
  • Do study the relevant, corrected and up-to-date chart of the area,
  • Do ensure that your vessel is adequately lit, taking into account levels of background lighting and other prevailing conditions,
  • Do ensure that your vessel presents an adequate radar target by hoisting (or permanently fixing) a suitable radar reflector and
  • Keep a good lookout and maintain a listening watch on the appropriate VHF channel throughout.