The Incident

A 2,692 container vessel, vessel A, began its journey which a bit later became challenging as when the vessel’s sea passage commenced the visibility worsened, while the vessel was sailing through dense fog with SW winds at Beaufort scale 6.

On the bridge, the Master had the conn, while the OOW and a lookout were also on the vessel’s bridge. At 20.00 the Second Officer took over the watch from the Third Officer. The visibility was only 0.1 NM and the fog was persistent into the evening, that’s why the Master stayed on the bridge the entire time.

The vessel was keeping a steady speed at 17 knots on a course of 240 degrees, while the vessel was sounding fog signals. Both the ARPA X-band and S-band radar were used and the ranges were changed between 3 NM and 6 NM.

Minutes before the collision

  • C-12 minutes: Vessel B was on the port bow about 3 NM from vessel A, making a speed of 6 knots on a 010 degree course according to the ARPA. Vessel B was about 11 o'clock from vessel A and crossing from port to starboard. The CPA was 0.0 NM and so a risk of collision existed.
  • C-10 minutes: The Master saw the name of vessel B on the AIS and called it on VHF channel 16 but had no response. He also used the searchlight to flash at the direction of vessel B as a warning signal. It is unlikely that vessel B would have seen this.
  • C-5 minutes: The Master ordered hand steering and an alteration to port to 210 degrees, in order to let vessel B pass ahead of vessel A. Shortly afterwards vessel B started to alter to starboard, resulting in a distance of 0.5 NM between them. The Master on vessel A ordered hard to port.

Collision:

The vessels collided, and vessel B struck the starboard side of vessel A. The Master on vessel A now saw that vessel B was a fishing vessel.

Despite the collision, the Master of vessel A continued the voyage at same speed and course, and following, the VTS called vessel A stating that they should stop and wait for the coast guard to arrive.

At the time of the collision the fishing vessel was fishing by casting fishing pots overboard.

COLREGs

Rule 5 - Look out: Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing, as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions, so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.

The bridge was manned sufficiently and the bridge team on vessel A plotted vessel B at an early stage. However, the bridge team did not act on their observations.

Rule 6 - Safe speed: Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions. In determining a safe speed, the following factors shall be among those taken into account. [(a) By all vessels:] (i) the state of visibility: (ii) the traffic density including concentrations of fishing vessels or any other vessels:

A speed of 17 knots in restricted visibility in an area with fishing boats can be considered unsafe.

Rule 7 - Risk of collision: (a) Every vessel shall use all available means appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions to determine if risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt [then] such risk shall be deemed to exist.

The CPA was 0 when vessel A plotted vessel B at C-12 minutes. It should have been apparent to those on the bridge of vessel A that there was a risk of collision.

Rule 8 - Action to avoid collision : (a) Any action to avoid collision shall be taken in accordance with the Rules of this Part and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, be positive, made in ample time and with due regard to the observance of good seamanship

There was sufficient time for vessel A to take appropriate action to increase the CPA and avoid the collision.

Rule 19 - Conduct of vessels in restricted visibility: (a) This Rule applies to vessels not in sight of one another when navigating in or near an area of restricted visibility. (b. Every vessel shall proceed at a safe speed adapted to the prevailing circumstances and conditions of restricted visibility. A power-driven vessel shall have her engines ready for immediate manoeuvre. (d) A vessel which detects by radar alone the presence of another vessel shall determine if a closequarters situation is developing and/or risk of collision exists. If so, she shall take avoiding action in ample time, provided that when such action consists of an alteration of course, so far as possible the following shall be avoided: (i) an alteration of course to port for a vessel forward of the beam, other than for a vessel being overtaken: (ii) an alteration of course towards a vessel abeam or abaft the beam

Vessel A altered to port, which is in contravention of rule 19 as vessel B was on the port bow of vessel A. At no time did the Master on vessel A reduce speed.

Lessons Learned

  • The Master and OOWs must always consider the safe speed of the vessel. This is something that the Master and Owners must deal with in their safety management procedures to ensure that the vessel is navigated safely. In addition, the greater risk of sailing at a high speed must always be evaluated by the Master and instructions conveyed to the bridge officers.
  • The bridge team on vessel A was aware of vessel B for about 12 minutes before the collision. Despite the clear indication that the vessels were on collision courses, the Master of vessel A altered to port, towards vessel B and in contravention of rule 19. The Master on vessel A stated that this manoeuvre was because he believed that vessel B was the give-way vessel and that vessel B would pass forward of vessel A. Under Rule 19, both vessels have an equal obligation to avoid a collision.

Under no circumstances should a vessel alter to port towards a vessel on its port bow in restricted visibility as vessel A did in this collision.

  • It’s not acceptable to continue voyage after a collision. The master should have ensured that all crew on vessel B were safe before continuing the voyage, which he did not do.
  • The Master had been on the bridge for five hours when the collision occurred. It is unknown how long he had been awake prior to this. However, according to the flag state investigation it is unlikely that the Master suffered from fatigue.
  • In this case vessel B was plotted but the bridge team on vessel A did not act on the information and assumed that vessel B would alter course. Bridge officers should be well trained so that they can take critical decisions quickly and correctly. They must understand the consequences of their actions, appreciate when no action needs to be taken, and know how to prevent a close quarters situation.
  • Some safety management systems stipulate minimum CPA limits and manning levels in the navigation policy, depending on visibility and during critical operations such as approaching or leaving a port. However, generic requirements in the navigation policy may not illustrate to officers what are acceptable limits and what are unacceptable limits. Many of these issues are covered in our Bridge Instructions booklet (see Appendix (i)).