My vessel was proceeding out from her berth under pilotage with an experienced bridge team and pilot on the bridge. The vessel was constrained by her draught and displaying the appropriate signals. Approximately one mile ahead was another large vessel.
Upon leaving the berth we had an escort launch for the initial part of her passage. There were a large number of pleasure craft in the area. After departure of this escort, a number of speed boats approached the vessel and came within metres of the ship’s side, seriously endangering themselves in the process.
Subsequently, as we approached a large turn in the channel, a sailing vessel crossed the buoyed channel and ahead of us at a very close range. Five short blasts were sounded but with no apparent response from the sailing vessel.
During the subsequent passage, two more pleasure craft impeded our passage and caused great concern to the bridge team and pilot. On each occasion 5 shorts blasts were sounded by my vessel. Appropriate sound signals were also made prior to the commencement of the turns.
The local Harbour Master launch was asked to reprimand the vessels however only one of them could be found amongst all the other pleasure craft in the area. The names/sail numbers of the vessels were taken by the pilot so that he could make a report to the Harbour Master.
We contacted the Harbour Master who advised that he was already fully aware of this incident reported. The patrol launch provides escort to the majority of large vessels transiting in the area where these incidents took place. However it is not always possible to allocate a launch to each individual vessel. Therefore, education of recreational sailors in the area is a key priority. He and his staff give presentations to the recreational sector highlighting many of the issues raised in the report.
It is of concern that a minority of leisure sailors do not recognise the risks to themselves by un-seamanlike manoeuvres or to the anxiety thereby caused to other mariners. The close approach of small craft may also lead to security concerns.
Harbour Authorities put considerable effort in trying to improve matters, as this Harbour Master has described. At major ports, forums for all port users, commercial and leisure, have been established. In some areas, experienced volunteers endeavour to persuade transgressors to improve their boat handling and seamanship.