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Old 04-06-2021, 03:56   #1
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Not, Not Under Command

Some of us have seen commercial ships use NUC while drifting waiting for their pilot time. Here is an interaction that takes that to a new level and I think highlights why this is poor practice in general. This was a few months ago so I may have distances off a bit in my memory.

We were sailing north reaching at 6 kts, 5 miles off Miami. There was a cargo ship ahead and inland of us, stationary and showing NUC on AIS. We had plenty of clearance so just carried on.

3 miles out, he started moving SE at 8 knots, CPA went to 0.1 nmi. Still showing NUC.... and giving us a lot of time. So if he's "really" NUC he's now the equivalent of a kamikaze headed at me.

So I called him. The conversation went something like

Me. Captain it looks like we're close and you're showing Not Under Command. Do you need me to turn to avoid you?

Him. Oh no, we were just drifting. Do you want to turn inland?

(WTF?) Me. Negative I would like to hold course.

Him. Understood we will turn and pass port to port.

Ok so no harm no foul? He turned to starboard and carried on southbound at 8 knots, still showing NUC. We passed at maybe a mile.

I watched him continue on AIS for the next half hour.

Dan
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Old 04-06-2021, 04:56   #2
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

Hmmm. Voluntary NUC would seem to me an abuse of the definition "a vessel which through some exceptional circumstance is unable to manoeuvre and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel." It's a lazy way of saying that other vessels (you, us) have responsibility for staying out of the way because this vessel isn't going to take any responsibility for avoidance. I guess that the good news is that the vessel in question actually had someone on the bridge and did take some responsibility when you asked.

So, where are we? We know that vessels waiting for pilots etc. have found a way to avoid such tasks as hovering or anchoring. Now that you have pointed that out, and given our being unable to prevent the practice, we know to stay even farther away from seemingly stationary ships off ports. I think that you were fortunate that the skipper was on the bridge and not below taking a nap.

I think I'll discuss this practice with my Aransas Pass Pilot brother-in-law.
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Old 04-06-2021, 05:36   #3
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pirate Re: Not, Not Under Command

Well if he was sitting in a N bound current he was likely heading to the S of his designated port to wait again for his summons.. likely had drifted to far N and was repositioning.
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Old 04-06-2021, 05:40   #4
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

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Originally Posted by boatman61 View Post
Well if he was sitting in a N bound current he was likely heading to the S of his designated port to wait again for his summons.. likely had drifted to far N and was repositioning.

That would be a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But he wouldn't really be NUC while doing it.
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Old 04-06-2021, 05:54   #5
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

Kamikazi is kinda a loaded word. You are correct NUC status is reserved or lets say, clearly should not have been claimed.
Anywhere off a busy, large port, the traffic jam is difficult for everyone. Please put yourself in his position. You have a lot more choices.
All Merchant Mariners have seen vessels of every description roll along like they are the only vessel out there. You asked for a situational opinion from the other Captain and he did the right thing.
I understand what its like to be on a yacht and feel you are going to be run over.
I actually had a tug and dredge dump barge tell me he intended to do just that while we were anchored with no power and no sails or mast. Captain Crazy.
So it does happen. Kinda like road rage.
I guess there will be posts telling you to go to USCG and file papers. Please remember USCG and a lot of other Professional mariners are listening. Sometimes they will cell phone USCG if its clear a real bad situation could have occurred because nobody wants to work next to some nutcase.
Invalid claim to NUC status is not the norm.
If this Captain continues to act like a fierce bad rabbit, the cat will catch him.
Happy trails to you.
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Old 04-06-2021, 05:58   #6
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pirate Re: Not, Not Under Command

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Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
That would be a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But he wouldn't really be NUC while doing it.
Which is why he was prepared to give way when needed, likely did not feel the need to haul down and then haul up again the NUC signals for what may have been just a two hour exercise.. same with AIS oversight.
Good watch keeping by the sailboat identified the ship was travelling at speed and it became a non event..
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Old 04-06-2021, 06:24   #7
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

"Still showing NUC.... and giving us a lot of time. So if he's "really" NUC he's now the equivalent of a kamikaze headed at me."

Sorry, should have said NOT giving us a lot of time. Conditions were sporty: double reefed and strong SE swell in the Gulf Stream. Getting the preventer off and tacking would have been a scramble. Another minute or two and that would have been the drill.

The kamikaze term was what was in my head, didnt mean to imply he was intentional, maybe runaway train would fit better. If he was really not under Command then he wouldn't be able to turn potentially.

IMO underway showing NUC like that adds a bunch of ambiguity to the crossing, and that is a bad thing. I saw at the time that he was just starting to move, so maybe hadn't changed signals yet. But 30 minutes later he was still NUC underway.
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Old 04-06-2021, 06:54   #8
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

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Originally Posted by Off Trail View Post
Some of us have seen commercial ships use NUC while drifting waiting for their pilot time.
. . .
Ok so no harm no foul? He turned to starboard and carried on southbound at 8 knots, still showing NUC. We passed at maybe a mile.

I watched him continue on AIS for the next half hour.

Dan
Good on you to contact and discuss your safe routing and to come to clarification of intents.

When you contacted the NUC ship's bridge, did you ask who you were talking to? Under such circumstances it would behoove one to want to talk with the commander, and if the ship is truly NUC, then it would seem to beg for an inquiry as to: Who the hell are you answering my call? The ship's galley mate maybe.

So Dan, left wondering if the pilot's boat also was displaying NUC when it came out to deliver the pilot to the NUC cargo ship?

Has anyone overheard the USCG contact ships that are displaying NUC because as you stated it is to only be a status that involves EXTRAordinary condition as to inabilities of operability of the vessel? [Meaning something exceptionally NOT ordinary, yeah the English language is bizarre in this regard]. Displaying NUC would seem to be a massive Red Flag to a marine safety authority requiring prompt inquiry.

Clearly the representation of NUC status was inappropriate, which goes to show everyone that you should not place full trust in what others are communicating or displaying and treat all vessels as potential hazards to navigation.

Per chance was the NUC ship named The Kraken?

Glad that with your prompt engagement that the closing became 1 mile and not .1 mile.

All the best,
Dan
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Old 04-06-2021, 07:06   #9
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

A skipper who tried that around here would be reamed out pretty hard by the Coast Guard.


You don't get to squawk "NUC" if you're just drifting with the engine in neutral, and can manoeuvre if needed.


You don't get to squawk "NUC" if you're drifting with the engine off, and can start it in time to manoeuvre.


You do get to squawk "NUC" if you're drifting with the engine off and have no way to start it and get underway in time to manoeuvre. But if you're doing that by choice, as opposed to doing it because your engine's broken down, then you're probably being rather negligent, and neither the Coasties nor the court will have much sympathy for you.


If you're squawking "NUC" on AIS, flying ball-over-ball dayshapes, or showing red-over-red masthead lights.... but you are actually underway and can manoeuvre.... then you're violating COLREGS and being an ass. And if I saw that, I'd absolutely give the Coast Guard Radio base a call on whatever working channel they're using for that area.
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Old 04-06-2021, 10:36   #10
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

At least the Captain in question seemed helpful and pleasant. He may be in the wrong, but at least no bad attitude.

With the success of the outdoor "Reality" TV cable shows - there seems to be popular aversion to almost any sort of gentlemanly behavior. Everything is a zero sum game...
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Old 04-06-2021, 13:34   #11
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

[QUOTE=There was a cargo ship ahead and inland of us, stationary and showing NUC on AIS. We had plenty of clearance so just carried on. [/QUOTE]

CHECK

[QUOTE=3 miles out, he started moving SE at 8 knots, CPA went to 0.1 nmi......
So I called him.....[/QUOTE]

CHECK

[QUOTE=He turned to starboard and carried on southbound at 8 knots, still showing NUC. We passed at maybe a mile.[/QUOTE]

Double check.

Good seamanship on DAN's part. Problem identified, problem communicated, problem solved.

Having a little difficulty seeing where the rub is. I appreciate DAN relating this occurrence as a reminder for why we should always be alert to an unanticipated change in another vessel's status and why we should never assume anything about a potential danger until that danger is past.

As for reporting it to the CG or any other authority I don't see the point. No way of knowing what the captain was dealing with or why he made the decision to squawk NUC.

We're supposed to be out there cooperating and supporting each other which is what happened here. Don't see a reason for reporting proper action that avoided collision even if one of the vessels might have broadcast an incorrect status.
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Old 04-06-2021, 13:49   #12
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

Maybe they forgot they had NUC up?

I’d let it slide if they’re cool. If the guy was a dick about it? F’ him, report him.
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Old 04-06-2021, 13:55   #13
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

Hello, Off Trail,

I can't begin to tell you what a frequent occurrence this sort of thing is. It happens a lot off the coast from Newcastle, NSW, Australia. The big ships have been drifting south on the southbound current, and the whole time, maybe 50 n. mi. or so, they're displaying NUC on their AIS. Under way, but not underway. Just avoid them. In your shoes, I'd have altered course to avoid them. I understand it's annoying, but for me, anyway, it is still that they are a moving hazard, and ultimately, it is up to me to avoid them. I shrug this things off to "it's an imperfect world" or "s--t happens".

One time, I heard a big ship going into Wollongong, also NSW, talking about getting his AIS fixed. The big guys can have things break that they need assistance to fix.

It makes it easier if everyone would follow the rules, but not everyone does, and it may or may not be "their fault". Had you collided with a NUC ship that was under way by drifting only, assuming your and your vessel survived, you would have been apportioned a percentage of the blame for the incident, because it is really up to each of us to avoid collision.

And a footnote for you if you go farther afield than the US: when you have a choice, if you know in advance the ship is coming from somewhere they have malaria or chikungunya, take their stern. We've had a horde of mozzies come out and chase us. A real, "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" moment.

Accept what you cannot change.

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Old 04-06-2021, 14:11   #14
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

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You do get to squawk "NUC" if you're drifting with the engine off and have no way to start it and get underway in time to manoeuvre. But if you're doing that by choice, as opposed to doing it because your engine's broken down, then you're probably being rather negligent, and neither the Coasties nor the court will have much sympathy for you.
It's a relatively new concept for commercial ships to drift, but besides cutting costs, it is also the greener option to steaming in-ballast. There has been quite a bit of discussion in professional circles about how to best indicate the situation. It can take a fair amount of time to "start the engines" in large vessels. AFAIK, the authorities have by and large taken a wait-and-see approach rather than hard-enforcement. In time the colregs might be amended to allow this now fairly common practice.
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Old 04-06-2021, 15:01   #15
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Re: Not, Not Under Command

Thank you all for the kind comments.

But the real reason for my post was really to see if this "NUC under power" situation is as unusual as I thought it was. Has the "NUC while drifting" gone down a slippery slope and become "NUC while drifting, or just powering a little bit"?

It sounds like this wasn't a common thing, so that's encouraging.

If he'd continued drifting, no problem, just stay out of the way. It was the maneuvering under power that I was reacting to.

I saw his status on AIS so considered myself give-way. Apparently once I called him he thought he was give-way as he normally would be without NUC. An ambiguous and inconvenient, but nominally safe situation.

I thought about the next sailboat that might be following me, maybe without AIS. He would think he was stand-on. What if the freighter, now underway at 8 knots, thought the same based on his status?

Unfortunately I didn't think to look for his day shapes as we passed; there was another vessel ahead that took our attention.
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