Improper Starboard Side Lookout Cause Collision [Part 2]

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Japan P & I Club released a P & I Loss Prevention Bulletin, volume number 40 in September 2017.  The prevention bulletin deals with the case study concerning collision, engine trouble and oil spill accident.

This following case study reveals the effect of collision that takes place between a container vessel and cargo vessel, and the preventive measures that could have been followed to avoid to evade the collision.

This is the second part of the case study that has been published earlier titled ‘ Improper Starboard Side Lookout Cause Collision [Part I]’.

Analysis of accident causes

It is necessary to consider safety from a ‘preventative type’ perspective in order to safeguard society against the occurrence of an accident.

There are several common points regarding the accident causes of the third officers of vessels A and B. We are going to analyse this focusing on the ‘Why?’ of Human Characteristics.

A summary of the common points regarding the third officers of both vessels is as follows:

They relied solely on ARPA information regarding the risk of collision, and did not verify the
changes in compass bearing that the other vessel continued on the following human characteristics.

  • Human beings sometimes forget
  • Human beings have moments of inattention
  • Human beings sometimes are only able to see or think about one thing at a time

The testimony of the third officer of Vessel A is as follows:

‘At approximately 20:25 (approx.36 minutes before the collsion), along with detecting Vessel B’s starboard bow at a distance of 8 nautical miles on radar, I visually confirmed her two white mast lights for the first time. Then I also visually confirmed one red light, and recognized that Vessel B was navigating on a course of approximately <135> at a speed of about 13.0 kts. I continued to look out visually using the radar, while assigning a cadet to watch the radar and the Able Seaman to look out visually. (Approx.) 20:47, which was approximately 14 minutes before the collision, the third officer of Vessel A noticed that there was a risk of collision with Vessel B following the ARPA alert’.

The testimony given by the third officer of Vessel B is as follows:

‘At Approximately 20:50 (approx. 11 minutes before the collision), I caught Vessel A on the AIS and recognized two white lights and one green light. Vessel A, which was heading southbound was overtaking our vessel, at approx. 25° on her port side abeam aft, about 3 nautical miles away from our vessel. Then, I thought there was a risk of collision, because the CPA was indicated at 0.2 nautical miles via ARPA. I obtained the information that Vessel A was navigating to pass the stern of Vessel B via VHF, and confirmed the vessel name via AIS’.

No effect on the give-way vessel

There was almost no change in relative bearing from approximately 20:25, when the third officer of Vessel A noted the other vessel, until to approximately 20:40, when the approach alarm of ARPA sounded. Although Vessel A altered course to starboard at around 20:40 when the distance from Vessel B was 4.5 nautical miles, she (Vessel A) set a new course to <196> and altered course to starboard 6 degrees only. In addition, the change of relative bearing after change of heading course was slightly astern (starboard), which shows there was no effect on the give-way vessel at this point.

Thus, we can ascertain that the behaviour of third officer of Vessel A led to the following errors:

  1. Relied solely on ARPA infromation.
  2. There was a change in heading course to give-way, but them change in bearing was not verified. (The effectiveness of the give-way action was not confirmed)
  3. Although the vessel confirmed that it was navigating to pass the stern of the other vessel via VHF, the other vessel felt uneasy due to such a slight veering, Under normal circumstances, the appropriate give-way vessel is to widely change heading course to <248> to the astern of the other vessel.

This is in violation of Rule 16 of the Maritime Collisions Prevention Act (COLREGs) (Action by Give-way Vessel) that defines: Every vessel which is directed to keep out of the way of another vessel shall, so far as possible, take early and substantial action to keep well clear.

Also, the following are behaviour errors regarding the third officer of vessel B.

  1. He first only recognized vessel A on the radar when it was at a distance of 3 nautical miles away.
  2. Relied solely on the ARPA information.
  3. He over relied on the VHF information of the other vessel.
  4. If there is a distance of 3.0 nautical miles between large vessels and TCPA is estimated at 12-13 minutes, it is reasonable timing to start joint action.

Miscommunication via VHF a reason for a collision

The third officer of Vessel A: Thought that all was well, because avoidance
action was taken. He assumed that Vessel B would also alter her course to
starboard side by VHF communication.

The third officer of Vessel B: Assumed that Vessel A had changed her
course to starboard side to navigate in order to pass the stern of Vessel B
because he confirmed it via VHF.

Both Vessels A and B were in breach of the Masters’standing order

Vessel A: Master’s standing order

• The Officer of the Watch shall proceed with the procedures described in the SMS manual.
• Do not hesitate to call the Master up to the bridge, if in doubt. Even if it is too late to call the Master up to the bridge or it is no deemed longer necessary, by all means be sure to call to the Master to the bridge as soon as possible.
• Before calling the Master up to the bridge as early as possible, for safety reasons change the heading course or stop the engine without hesitation, remembering that it will enable the Master to have extra time for situation assessment.

Vessel B: Master’s standing order

• The Officer of the Watch is naturally expected to take action to avoid collision promptly if there is a risk of a dangerous situation during navigation. Do not be too cautious when using whistle signals.
• Keep appropriate look-out of the surroundings and immediately report the spotting of dangerous meeting ships.
• Do not think too much when taking actions to a avoid collision.

As can be seen from the above figure, the traffic system of the Kii Suido (Strait) is a sea area which easily causes a crossing situation because it has a narrow angle for approaching vessels between the Naru to Strait  and Hinomisaki’ and ‘those navigating north to south between the Tomogashima Strait and the Kii Hinomisaki coast of I-shima Island’.

Also, there are a large number of fishing vessels operating, along with a high volume of marine traffic.

Although it depends on the individual circumstances, if the waters are congested and there is a narrow channel, the Master is expected to command by himself in a large ocean-going vessel.

What were  the masters doing at the time of collision?

  • The Master of vessel A was checking his e-mail in his cabin after disembarkation of the pilot.
  • The Master of vessel B was taking a rest in his cabin after having passed the Naruto Strait.

Preventive measures

These preventive measures were formulated from the point of view of preventing a similar accident through drawing up countermeasures applicable to the third officers and Masters of the ships involved, Vessel A and Vessel B, and the managing companies of the respective ships.

  • Re-education regarding the use of electronic aids
  • Re-education of watch-keeping method
  • Re-education of BTM
  • Re-education for the safe operation of the ship
  • SMS Manual evaluation of remedial action

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Source: Japan P & I Club

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