Best Practices for Ships Sailing in The Atlantic During Hurricane Season


The Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1 and ends on November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an above-normal 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, forecasting 17 to 25 storms with winds of 39 mph (34 knots) or higher. Out of these, 8 to 13 could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher, and 4 to 7 might be major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher, reports Britannia.

Prior to Sailing

  1. Voyage Risk Assessment: Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment when navigating in the Atlantic basin.
  2. Weather Routing Services: Subscribe to these services to prepare for hurricanes or heavy weather before and during the voyage.
  3. Ship’s Water and Weather Tightness: Ensure compartments and openings are secure.
  4. Vessel Preparation: Secure and prepare the vessel for extreme weather, considering extra lashing to prevent cargo shifting.
  5. Crew Training: Train crew on avoiding and handling heavy weather. Inform them of emergency response procedures in the Safety Management System (SMS) for heavy weather damage.
  6. Weather Reports and Charts: Familiarize watchkeeping deck officers with reading and understanding these reports.
  7. Meteorological Warnings and Forecasts: Tune to the correct met area and satellite for enhanced group calling (EGC) services.
  8. Weather Facsimile Stations: Identify these stations and their transmission frequencies for receiving weather facsimile charts.

During Sailing

  1. Inspect Lashing Arrangements: Regularly inspect cargo, equipment, and fittings for preparedness against extreme weather.
  2. Weather Warnings: Receive and plot warnings from weather routing and EGC services.
  3. Path Comparison: Compare the predicted path of heavy weather or hurricane conditions against the vessel’s progress.

Upon Encountering a Hurricane

  1. Forecast Track Comparison: Continually compare the hurricane’s forecast track to the planned ship movement.
  2. 1-2-3 Rule: Use this rule for forecasting the error radius and determining the danger area (100 NM for 24 hr, 200 NM for 48 hr, 300 NM for 72 hr forecast).
  3. Danger Area Chart: Plot this chart to identify areas to avoid based on the hurricane path.
  4. Courses of Action: Determine at least two possible courses to remain clear of the danger area.
  5. Nearby Ports: Evaluate ports or hurricane havens for avoidance if needed.
  6. Closest Point of Approach (CPA): Calculate the CPA to the cyclone for potential courses using the latest forecasts.
  7. Avoidance Course: Decide on and execute the avoidance course while monitoring the hurricane’s progress.
  8. MSC.1/Circ.1228 Guidance: Follow this for avoiding dangerous situations in adverse weather.
  9. SMS Procedure: Follow the procedure for encountering heavy weather.
  10. Port Evaluation: Evaluate port protection based on forecast wind direction and storm surge potential.
  11. Leave Port Decisions: Make early decisions to leave port considering safe departure time and avoidance routes.

After Encountering Heavy Weather

  1. Forecastle and Anchor Lashing Inspection: Inspect these areas after necessary precautions and risk assessments.
  2. Logbook Entries: Ensure comprehensive entries detailing the facts and measures taken are completed.

Hurricane Climatology in the North Atlantic

Understanding the climatologically favored regions and tracks for hurricane development and movement in the North Atlantic is crucial. For more information about Atlantic hurricane activity, refer to the NOAA website.

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