Dover Strait Contravention

Report Text:

My vessel was in the Dover Strait NE lane approaching Gris Nez. Whilst this incident did not involve or affect me directly, I still feel it is worthy of a report.

I previously heard a large vessel reporting to Gris Nez Traffic that he was intending to cross the NE Lane coming from the SW lane bound for Dunkerque, so was keeping a watch for him in case he crossed whilst I was in the vicinity.

I subsequently observed this vessel in the NE lane close to the Sandettie SW buoy, well clear of me, steering a course of 180T (gyro output from AIS) i.e at an acute angle to the traffic lane. This appeared to be his set course, rather than one adopted to avoid any NE bound vessels. After observing him maintaining this course for some time I called Gris Nez Traffic to enquire if they were watching his progress and that I considered the vessel was in contravention of Rule 10.  Gris Nez Traffic informed me that there was no contravention of the rules, “as he was bound for Dunkerque”.  The vessel continued on this course the whole way across the NE lane from Sandettie SW buoy to Ruytingen SW buoy.

I was not in agreement with Gris Nez Traffic and their interpretation of Rule 10 but did not consider it appropriate to discuss the matter on the VHF.

CHIRP Comment:

Rule 10 ( c ) of the ColRegs says: “A vessel shall, so far as practicable, avoid crossing traffic lanes, but if obliged to do so shall cross on a heading as nearly as practicable at right angles to the general direction of traffic flow.”

We advised the manager of the Channel Navigation Information Service at Dover of this report. He was able to verify from Vessel Traffic System data recording that the track of the large vessel was as described in the report. This was in contravention of Rule 10. There is no exemption for vessels bound for a particular port. He has drawn the attention of his counterpart in Gris Nez to the incident.