CHIRP Discusses Near Misses
The latest issue of U.K. charitable trust CHIRP’s Maritime Broadcast discusses an incident in a traffic separation scheme, an exhaust gas heater fire suppression system engineering fault and possible entry into enclosed spaces without full precautions.
The Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP) aims to seek out root causes for near misses, without blame, identify the lessons learned and to consider how best this information can be used to prevent reoccurrence elsewhere in the maritime industry.
The CHIRP report describes a traffic separation scheme (TSS) incident on the video and in their latest newsletter:
A VLCC heading north-east in the Sandettie TSS was overtaken at very close quarters (one to two cables) by a container ship. This maneuver necessitated her passing F1 buoy, marking the separation line at a distance of about 50 meters (160 feet). The maneuver took place at the entrance to the NE lane, where the VLCC and, to an extent, the overtaking vessel, were heavily constrained by their draught.
The container ship did not comply with guidance on the relevant chart and in BA5550 advising against use of the Deep Water Route (DWR) by vessels under 16 meters (50 feet) in draught, and to the dangers of overtaking.
Lessons to be Learnt
It is the obligation of the overtaking vessel to “keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken … until finally past and clear.” The distance at which the container ship, at speed, passed the VLCC was far too close, says the CHIRP report. There was no spare room. Though CHIRP does not have tidal information (height or stream), which could have influenced decisions, it is clear that the VLCC crew judged it had little or no space to starboard.
The overtaking maneuver should not have taken place, states the report. Moreover, interaction will almost certainly have been present; this can cause loss of heading control or – at the least –unpredictable rudder requirements to maintain course, depending on ships’ sizes and speeds and the depth of water in which they were navigating.
Why did this happen? Was it inexperience? Was it a failure to think ahead? Was it a lack of prior planning? Was it red-line-itis (the tendency once a passage plan has been “entered” to follow it regardless)? Whatever the cause, the container ship’s managers did acknowledge that she could or should have slowed down.
Passage planning and thinking ahead. The passage plan should normally conform with local routeing and maneuvering guidance, with alternatives available as appropriate. Plan the TSS arrival: how, when, with what bridge manning, including decisions on the master’s presence.
Execution. Remember that a plan is a plan; a basis for change if real time circumstances demand. It is never a line to follow regardless, if the circumstances of the case dictate something different. When approaching the entrance to a TSS – indeed whenever navigating in a TSS – officers of the watch (appropriately backed up with extra expertise to manage workload) should be planning how to slot into the traffic flow from a distance; in the case of these two large ships from at least 10 nautical miles.
Slow down if in doubt, always remembering the ship astern. Things can happen very fast. Inexperienced officers of the watch can be sucked into close quarters situations that never need to occur. Don’t overtake if there is not ample time and space to do so, within the available safe straight part of a TSS. If at all possible, the overtaking vessel should only pass on the starboard side of the vessel to be overtaken in order to permit flexible options and maximize searoom.
Masters, by order book or verbal instruction, can clarify their expectations and calling orders with respect to speed and course alterations, overtaking, traffic density and the like. Use your eyes. Look up and out. Use electronic aids, certainly; but do not depend on them alone. Think from the other ship’s point of view. Are you own actions obvious and clear? Or might they induce doubt? Doubt = DANGER.
Confidentially submit dangerous occurrence reports to CHIRP here.