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Old 28-07-2014, 18:49   #1
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Collision course, radio and procedures

I am under sail, midday, 20 miles from land and a 950ft bulk carrier appears with 30 minutes to a CPA of nothing much. I leave it a while to see if it becomes clearer or if he moves. It doesn't and he doesn't. At 15 minutes and 4 miles or so I make a DSC call. No response. At 12 minutes and under 4 miles I make another DSC call. No response and no change of course. At 9 minutes and 2.5 miles I get him on channel 16. He says he estimates me passing two cables ahead of him so at 8 minutes and about 2 miles makes what is now quite a big turn to give me a mile clearance (I didn't need or ask for that much). I thank him and ask why he didn't reply. The answer was he was just about to.

Something similarly uncomfortable has happened quite a few times now. I have played it differently before, moving early only to find a simultaneous move worsening the situation. What is meant to happen here? Playing chicken is what it feels like. Radio responses are often slow or sometimes non existent. What are these big commercial ships obliged to do in terms of response and what do they expect from us? I don't want to stubbornly rest on the colregs, equally I don't want to weave about and get into a pavement dance as that could also get ugly and an accident would be my fault.
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Old 28-07-2014, 19:24   #2
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

For me reliance on radio is futile. I assume everyone sees each other, knows the rules and will comply - until they do not.

You need to define your comfort zone. i.e. how much time do you need to avoid a collision? You then need to take corrective action before that time.

For me in my small boat it's probably 300 meters or less. I have passed within a few boat lengths (my lengths) of ships.

There are too many variables and scenarios to have a one size fits all approach - i.e. in your example there is much missing information. What waterway were you in (open ocean, channel, fairway?), was he displaying any signals? (restricted, piloted etc)

I don't stand on regs either - With ships, if I can turn a few degrees and pass their stern I will as a courtesy. They are engaged in commerce, I am engaged in sport.
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Old 28-07-2014, 19:31   #3
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

Quote:
Originally Posted by poiu View Post
What is meant to happen here? Playing chicken is what it feels like..
maybe you 'feel' wrong.

He missed you by 1 NM.

That's what most company regs say. Some say 2 nms but most are 1 nm.

How far do you want him to miss you by?
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Old 28-07-2014, 19:55   #4
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

Sounds pretty normal to me. I have hailed many commercial ships and had no response back.
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Old 28-07-2014, 19:59   #5
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

I am basically with Dan on his questions/comments
No situational or Aspect info

However,I still believe that very clear and specific calls to clarify targets intent by radio is a useful and formal part of the process if valid concerns are there?

Also legally useful if it unnecessarily developed into a close quarter situation thru one or both deviating from the Rules without prior agreement!

There are just times when due to other traffic... prior agreement to help each other out by the stand on vessel adjusting course.. makes sense.


By specific....
1.../Your name, position, course and your aspect

2.../Identify v/l by position
Relative Bearing..(their aspect and present CPA+TCPA

In the situation described I would already have an action plan at 3nm... So relaxed whether they replied or not.

If you do communicate, keep it simple/friendly and ask the commercial guy what he would prefer?

Once decided...Repeat slow and clear that you will adjust your course to (? ) to pass (ahead/astern/or Pt-Stbd of THEM)

Ask them to confirm your action (if any) and exaggerate your action at first to demonstrate agreement.

Let them know which channel you will be standing by on.

95% of the time, I just make my legal (by the Rules) intent obvious.
But if I see that it makes life difficult for the other guy....I will call and try to help him out.
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Old 28-07-2014, 20:33   #6
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

I heard a good one today. Radio call on Ch 16. "tugboat pushing barge in long Island sound.....What are your intentions?" 3 minutes later "Tugboat pushing barge in long Island sound off my starboard bow, what are your intentions?" Long Island sound is about 100 miles long and 20 miles wide and probably has 50 tugboats pushing barges at any one time. This went on for 15 minutes. He finally identified himself as a sailboat, but did this clown really expect an answer?
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Old 29-07-2014, 03:36   #7
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

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Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
For me reliance on radio is futile. I assume everyone sees each other, knows the rules and will comply - until they do not.

You need to define your comfort zone. i.e. how much time do you need to avoid a collision? You then need to take corrective action before that time.

For me in my small boat it's probably 300 meters or less. I have passed within a few boat lengths (my lengths) of ships.

There are too many variables and scenarios to have a one size fits all approach - i.e. in your example there is much missing information. What waterway were you in (open ocean, channel, fairway?), was he displaying any signals? (restricted, piloted etc)

I don't stand on regs either - With ships, if I can turn a few degrees and pass their stern I will as a courtesy. They are engaged in commerce, I am engaged in sport.
Exact circumstances are important of course, so sorry for the missed detail. This was open deep water 20nm S.E. Of Antigua. Midday, good vis, no other traffic, no restrictions on manoeuvring, no signals I was on a starboard fetch at 8 kt going N W. He at 11kt from Rotterdam to Columbia. Probably he hadn't seen a yacht or touched his wheel for weeks.
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Old 29-07-2014, 04:14   #8
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

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Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
maybe you 'feel' wrong.

He missed you by 1 NM.

That's what most company regs say. Some say 2 nms but most are 1 nm.

How far do you want him to miss you by?
He asked if 1nm was enough as though he was asking if my company regs required more. I said more than enough. Actually I didn't need any distance at all more than the 300m or so I had as it turned out, I just wanted contact so I could be sure he wasn't asleep, that he had seen me and we act with cooperation together to avoid conflict should it prove necessary such as if that CPA turned out wrong or different.
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Old 29-07-2014, 04:54   #9
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

Just as an FYI . . . .there is a theory predominantly represented by UK authorities that VHF use should usually generally be avoided in collision situations . . . .

Law & Sea | Use of VHF in Collision Avoidance
http://www.guernseyharbours.gov.gg/C...x?id=82456&p=0
http://www.mpa.gov.sg/sites/circular...rs/pc05-18.pdf
Use of VHF Radio in Collision Avoidance | E-Marine Education
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Old 29-07-2014, 05:11   #10
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pelagic View Post
I am basically with Dan on his questions/comments
No situational or Aspect info

However,I still believe that very clear and specific calls to clarify targets intent by radio is a useful and formal part of the process if valid concerns are there?

Also legally useful if it unnecessarily developed into a close quarter situation thru one or both deviating from the Rules without prior agreement!

There are just times when due to other traffic... prior agreement to help each other out by the stand on vessel adjusting course.. makes sense.


By specific....
1.../Your name, position, course and your aspect

2.../Identify v/l by position
Relative Bearing..(their aspect and present CPA+TCPA

In the situation described I would already have an action plan at 3nm... So relaxed whether they replied or not.

If you do communicate, keep it simple/friendly and ask the commercial guy what he would prefer?

Once decided...Repeat slow and clear that you will adjust your course to (? ) to pass (ahead/astern/or Pt-Stbd of THEM)

Ask them to confirm your action (if any) and exaggerate your action at first to demonstrate agreement.

Let them know which channel you will be standing by on.

95% of the time, I just make my legal (by the Rules) intent obvious.
But if I see that it makes life difficult for the other guy....I will call and try to help him out.
This is all very sensible. Thanks.

The only thing I could have done different was turn around or if I had acted really early and before it was clear to me there was a problem I could have stopped as a precaution for 10 minutes. As he was passing behind I couldn't speed up or do anything to increase separation. At the time he made contact, had he not done so I was ready to tack through 140 deg or ideally 180 deg at great inconvenience. That (like stopping) would have departed from colregs, put me in the wrong and for a while would have actually worsened the situation. Without communication I also couldn't be sure he wouldn't have done something silly and turned into me. The best situation would have been for him to change course by 1 or 2 degrees 20 to 30 minutes out. He did nothing.

Prompt communication by radio would have really helped me here and I think would have made the situation safer. I wonder if there is any obligation to communicate and to do so promptly. I wonder if big ships have voice /data recorders to ensure compliance. It was a Panama flag.
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Old 29-07-2014, 05:59   #11
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

Quote:
Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
Just as an FYI . . . .there is a theory predominantly represented by UK authorities that VHF use should usually generally be avoided in collision situations . . . .

Law & Sea | Use of VHF in Collision Avoidance
http://www.guernseyharbours.gov.gg/C...x?id=82456&p=0
http://www.mpa.gov.sg/sites/circular...rs/pc05-18.pdf
Use of VHF Radio in Collision Avoidance | E-Marine Education
Yes thanks evans, I can't remember the specific marine notice, but most of the masters standing orders on The ships I sailed on specifically discouraged vhf for colregs.

And we teach our students not to in most cases.

Exceptional circumstances may make vhf a possibility, ie NUC vs RAM.

Very seldom do merchant vessels need to talk, and if you do its often as likely to cause confusion as it is to clear it up, in my experience, and as many accidents show.

Also, even though English is the accepted language at sea, many OOW's are not that confident and would rather stay quiet.

Typically the people out at sea calling up ships and annoying everyone without good reason are Yachties and the Navy. Both who tend to be scared in heavy traffic...
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Old 29-07-2014, 06:34   #12
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

Quote:
Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
Just as an FYI . . . .there is a theory predominantly represented by UK authorities that VHF use should usually generally be avoided in collision situations . . . .

Law & Sea | Use of VHF in Collision Avoidance
http://www.guernseyharbours.gov.gg/C...x?id=82456&p=0
http://www.mpa.gov.sg/sites/circular...rs/pc05-18.pdf
Use of VHF Radio in Collision Avoidance | E-Marine Education
That's interesting. Thanks. It does suggest a reason why so many ships are silent and it is looking like it implies there are no obligations to talk at all, let alone to talk promptly.

The MCA guidance is here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/collec...e-notices-mgns
The VHF guidance also from Guernsey in your link:
https://mcanet.mcga.gov.uk/public/c4...mgn/mgn324.pdf

I actually don't interpret it as recommending the use of VHF be avoided, rather it is used with circumspection. To quote the text:

• Although the use of VHF radio may be justified on occasion as a collision avoidance
aid, the provisions of the Collision Regulations should remain uppermost


And:

13. Although the practice of using VHF radio as a collision avoidance aid may be resorted to
on occasion, for example in pilotage waters, the risks described in this note should be clearly
understood and the Collision Regulations complied with.
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Old 29-07-2014, 07:14   #13
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

Like anything else....the Rules allow the watchkeeper a certain amount of latitude in the name of 'seamanship' when interacting with another vessel.

While I rarely talk to other ships if I see that my assistance will help them in a multilateral development.... I will call and ask for their preference.

That is the difference between those who do and those who teach!
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Old 24-11-2014, 20:22   #14
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

We had the occasion to cruise from Muskegon Lake Michigan to Houghton In the Keewanaw, Lake Superior last summer. This necessarily takes you through two choke points, Mackinaw Island and the Straights of Mackinaw and the St Mary's River & locks. I always read the crossings and passing situations ahead and suggest a plan that will probably most suit the big guy. This is where AIS is a great help. I can identify the ore carriers and other commercial vessels, anticipate the CPA and then proactively work out the safest passage. For instance, an overtaking ore carrier up-bound in the St Mary's. I could predict he would pass us at a starboard kink in the channel. I could see sufficient depth to my starboard outside of the channel if I needed to run for cover. I could also predict he would want room to port for his stern to swing the turn (about 60 degrees). I called the vessel by name & clearly identified our vessel and asked if my solution suited him. The radio man agreed that was the best for them and thanked me for our forethought. Result - he doesn't worry and neither do I.

I think that what is most important about these interactions is that the other vessel acknowledges our presence. Had I not heard from the other bridge, I would have been hiding in the shallows.

BTW, the passing signals in the St Marry's are not the same as on open waters. - had to look it up. My Grandson was occasionally rewarded by requesting the horn using the standard over the road, over the head hand pull. There were a a couple of great sounding horns. I had serious horn lust by the time we got home. They made our dual air horn 220 db seem dinky.

Passing the ore boats is close quarters, sometimes less than 100 ft. Speed limit for the big guys is 10 knots. The real hazard is the cable-pulled ferry boats. These guys operate on a 'Get the Heck out of my way' schedule & will depart perpendicular to the channel as they see fit with respect to private vessels and they will not sound horns or acknowledge the radio. We encountered two of these (Detour Passage ferry in the photo) and both jumped in front of us without warning.
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Old 24-11-2014, 20:48   #15
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Re: Collision course, radio and procedures

The MCGA M-Notice is what you can expect ships to adhere to. The cadets and OOWs on these things have been instructed by their employers to stick to Colregs by the letter so as to avoid litigation.

So, Colregs all the way, call if you like, don't expect a reply, and take avoiding action early.

I would rather take early evasive action in accordance with Colregs, than see you in court, (or hospital) even if I was the stand-on vessel.

What Erwin said!
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