When a collision occurs, even though all seafarers onboard the vessels involved are affected in some way, the seafarers more at risk are those on fishing vessels, which makes it vital for merchant vessels to take care to avoid these collisions to safeguard lives, the Gard P&I Club said.
Vessel manoeuvrability in high traffic density area, bridge manning, limitations of electronic aids to collision avoidance and fatigue are some of the key challenges facing merchant ships and crews.
Whilst investigations have shown that in the period of time leading up to the collision, both vessels did not always maintain an effective lookout (visual and by radar), investigations have also revealed that in several incidents the following recurring factors onboard fishing vessels have contributed to the collision:
- The skipper of the fishing vessel often was the only certified person onboard and was fatigued.
- In some cases, the number of crew on the fishing boats was two or three, which for a sustained 24-hour operation is insufficient to fish and, at the same time, maintain a proper lookout. In some cases, there was no lookout at all.
- Fishing vessels were not engaged in fishing but en-route between fishing grounds at the material time.
- Fishing vessels were drifting in recognized shipping lanes, with no lookout maintained and all crew members in bed.
- The person keeping watch onboard the fishing vessel had no training, did not understand the obligations placed on a fishing vessel by the Collision Regulations and did not understand how to use the radar and the limitations of the same.
- The fishing vessels exhibited lights which did not meet the requirements of the COLREGs, making their status and movements harder to assess.
- Several fishing vessels were often found in close proximity to each other, making safe passing more difficult.
- The fishing vessels sometimes made confusing VHF calls prior to the collision, calling other vessels without using their name.
- The fishing vessels made unexpected last-minute manoeuvres, making safe passing more difficult. In some cases, the manoeuvres appeared motivated by protecting the fishing gear and resulted in dangerous situation with other traffic.
Members are encouraged to provide their navigators with guidance on best practices to adopt in dealing with navigating in areas of high density of fishing vessel traffic. Training is a proactive approach to safety. It requires the identification, analysis and mitigation of hazards before they can affect the safe operation of the vessel,
…the Club advised.
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