I was approaching the E bound lane of the TSS and observed a very near-miss involving three large container vessels; two were about to join the east bound lane and the third had left the west bound lane and altered course to the south. There were several exchanges between these vessels on VHF Ch. 16; on the radar screen it looked like a collision had occurred and on the AIS the range and bearing of two of ships was the same!! After several more VHF exchanges the southbound ship apologised.
I have never seen anything as close yet as these 3 large container vessels, so please somebody start asking questions.
CHIRP did exactly as the reporter suggested and asked some questions. The following account of the incident was received from the managers:
“Incident occurred during morning watch, while transiting the west bound TSS, en-route to XXX. As the vsl was delayed in her ETA, course had been charted to alter south and cross the TSS earlier. At the time of commencing alteration to port to cross the TSS, “A” observed “B” on her stbd bow, in the Northeast bound TSS.
Close on “B’s” stbd bow was “C”, overtaking “B”. “A”, contacted “B”, and requested permission to cross ahead of her. Apparently “B” declined the request, and instructed “A” to pass on her stern. As “A” had already altered to port to make the crossing, she continued the port alteration with a hard -over helm and made a round about turn. Once “B” and “C” had passed, “A” continued with the crossing, passing both the vsls on their sterns.
The onus of safe navigation is on each vessel whether container or non-container. Feel that in a developing close quarter situation the stand –on vessel should also be more flexible (in taking avoiding action) especially so in restricted waters.”
The Maritime Advisory Board made the following comments:
- The planning and execution of the manoeuvre was poor.
- Derogation from the Rules should not be negotiated by radio. The manoeuvre commenced before agreement was reached in any event.
- This scenario is frequently run in training and, had students acted similarly they would have been subject to extensive debrief.
- The Company suggestion that the “stand-on” vessel should show flexibility is incorrect in this context even though the stand-on vessel does not have an absolute right of way.
- The Company appear to be advancing an option which does not accord with recognised good practice.
- Fundamentally this represents an issue of Company safety culture and how they ensure officers are aware of and obey the Rules of the Road. The Company should be encouraged to respond to the behaviour of the officers involved; a failure to do something would send wrong message to the officers on the sister ship who had insisted on correct action.
The response to the incident from the managers was forwarded to corporate management, along with the Board’s comments and resulted in the following Circular being sent to all managers and ship masters.
“The Company places the highest importance on strict compliance with the COLREGS (and any other regulations issued by local Authorities) by our vessels using or crossing traffic separation schemes.
All Masters and Officers of the Watch should remind themselves of the requirements of Rule 10 and remember to apply ALL of the relevant COLREGS while using or crossing traffic separation schemes, in particular:
- Always maintain a safe speed as per COLREG Rule 6. In addition do not hesitate to reduce speed if more time is needed to assess the situation in heavy traffic or to wait for the appropriate gap in the traffic to cross a traffic separation scheme or a separation lane;
- Always cross traffic separation schemes at a right angle per COLREG Rule10(c):
“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”.
Crossing of a traffic separation scheme or lane should only be undertaken IF IT IS SAFE TO DO
The Board believes this is an appropriate Safety Management System response, but wishes to emphasise that Circulars represent only one of the actions required to bring about the changes in behaviour required. The International Rules for Prevention of Collisions at Sea should be complied with and the temptation to negotiate derogations from the Rules by VHF, even in the AIS era, should be avoided. If the Rules are applied properly, such communications are unnecessary in any event