Near Collision (Overtaking 1)

Report Text:

Own vessel at south end of TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme).  Weather had caused speed to be reduced to 4 kts, course 230 (T).  Another vessel (A), speed 15.7 kts was observed and plotted from 6nm astern overtaking on the starboard side and creating a close quarters situation.  At 2 nm, the CPA (Closest Point of Approach) was observed to be less than 1 cable.  I contacted the other vessel (A) on VHF Ch.16 and asked that my vessel be given a wider berth.  The reply was that there was another vessel on his starboard side, followed by an unintelligible mumble.  The other vessel (B) was some way ahead and proceeding in the same direction.  I decided not to alter course to port because I was concerned about the heavy rolling that would occur due to the weather.  In the event vessel (A) passed me at a distance of less than 1 cable with complete disregard for the effect of interaction between ships.

Vessel (A) then went on to overtake the vessel ahead (B) very closely, but the navigating officer of that vessel shone his searchlight onto the bridge causing him to complain bitterly, but to shear away.

Action taken on my part has been to report a “Near-miss” through the company SMS and recalculate the alternative action of altering course away from danger, but one should be able to expect a competent officer to be aware that his vessel was overtaking another too closely.

How early is “early” when one is the vessel being overtaken?

CHIRP Comment:

This report was forwarded to the manager of vessel (A), who replied as follows:

“….we do indeed encourage all our staff to report all Near Misses and/or Incidents as frequently as possible. Our Quality system mandates this reporting.

These reports are then consolidated at the head office, analyzed and sent back to the vessels across the fleet for their guidance and follow up. The onboard follow up is then reviewed through our Internal Auditing procedures amongst others.

In order to get to the root cause and analyze the alleged incident, it was important that we spoke to the person/s concerned at the time but understand your apprehension in releasing part information. We have however sent a message to all ships as a general guidance in such cases.

Anyhow, we are extremely grateful to you for bringing the alleged incident to our attention and continue to look forward to your kind support in the future.”

The Maritime Advisory Board is grateful for the company’s positive response to this incident and their understanding of the limits CHIRP sometimes imposes on the level of information it releases to protect individuals from negative consequences.

Rule 13 simply states:

“(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rules of Part B, Sections I and II, any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.”

Although Rule 13 may be considered to stand alone, the Maritime Advisory Board believes the general guidance contained in Rule 8 should be applied:

“(d) Action taken to avoid collision with another vessel shall be such as to result in passing at a safe distance.  The effectiveness of the action shall be carefully checked until the other vessel is finally past and clear.”

Studies have shown that in overtaking encounters there is a tendency to accept a closer CPA (Closest Point of Approach) than in crossing situations, despite the fact vessels are likely to be in close proximity for longer and the opportunity for other vessels to become involved and complicate matters is greater.

The second vessel overtaken appears to have used the signal prescribed in Rule 34 (d), or a version of it, with some success and the Maritime Advisory Board endorses this approach.

“(d) When vessels in sight of one another are approaching each other and from any cause either vessel fails to understand the intentions or actions of the other, or is in doubt whether sufficient action is being taken by the other to avoid collision, the vessel in doubt shall immediately indicate such doubt by giving at least five short and rapid blasts on the whistle.  Such signal may be supplemented by a light signal of at least five short and rapid flashes.”