Collisions between cargo ships and fishing vessels are a key area of concern in Japanese waters due to the large number of fishing vessels that operate in the region.
n the most recent of the cases, the crab fishing boat No.8 Hokko Maru collided with a Russian cargo ship killing three of its crew members. The Japan Coast Guard is currently conducting an investigation that includes the possibility that the crew of the Russian cargo ship did not spot the fishing vessel, which had stopped for fishing operations.
With respect to this incident and citing information by the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB), the UK P&I Club shared a summary of all collisions between cargo ships and fishing vessels in 2019 and 2020:
An overview of the key causes of these accidents in 2019 mostly identifies an inadequate lookout for other ships and falling asleep while operating a vessel:
The Club stressed that the crew should always comply with COLREGs. In addition, when encountering numerous fishing vessels located closely to each other, the following are also important:
- Any action to avoid a collision must be large and made in ample time (Rule 8)
- A proper system should be enforced for lookout shifts and constant vigilance of lookouts (Rule 5)
- Consider a reduction in speed and the use of manual navigation (Rule 6)
- Maneuvering and warning signals (Rule 34)
In the above table, four of the top five causes of problems (all except failure to confirm the ship’s position) involving fishing vessels are responsible for 115, or 73%, of all incidents. These four causes indicate that fishing vessels, for some reason, cannot be relied upon to take action to avoid other ships.
Consequently, when a cargo ship encounters a fishing vessel, the cargo ship should act quickly before there is a risk of a collision as defined in COLGERs Rule 7, so long as conditions permit (including time, distance, nearby vessels, and other factors). Operators of cargo ships must be aware of the need to act on their own in order to avoid collisions with fishing vessels,
…the Club recommended.