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Old 02-06-2024, 05:25   #1
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Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

here's the situation:

Boat A (me - 40 foot sailboat approaching San Juan Puerto Rico harbor from the west along the coast line.) Time 04:30. Showing both nav lights and motor lamp (we were motorsailing). we were making 6 knots

Boat B - 786 foot long cargo vessel. Approaching San Juan from the north. Vessel is only making 1 knot, Pilot vessel just coming alongside.

Note here - both vessels are in open water. Neither is in a sailing channel or entry channel.

We have the ship to our port side, ergo we are on their starboard side. No discussion here - Colregs say they are give way and we are stand on. It is our intention to enter San Juan. Obviously, they are taking on a Pilot with the same intention.

Since we have a situation where it is best to communicate, we call the ship on the VHF and saying we we want to ensure both boats understand each others intentions. the skipper informs us that the pilot is on board and coming up to the bridge and lets wait for him

Fine with us, we continue (we are the stand on). Suddenly we can see the ship increase her speed and looking at the AIS, she is now making 10m knots. CPA if no one does anything is now less than 1/4 nm, which is far below our comfort zone.

Calling the Ship we get the Pilot on the radio. What are you doing? Why haven't you called us back and arranged an agreement for who goes first?

His answer was:

"Well we're bigger than you are"

Egads! A Pilot quoting the "Law of Tonnage"????? And totally ignoring the Colregs?
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Old 02-06-2024, 06:01   #2
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Old 02-06-2024, 06:52   #3
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

You really though a freighter would give way when you were both motoring? You really felt acting on that assumption was the safe choice? Hmm ....



Put yourself in the other man's shoes. How do you feel when kayakers, or more proportionately, ducks wander about your boat? The mass ratio of a duck is actually close.



You do realize that within 1/4-mile he can barely maneuver to avoid you. You were inside your comfort zone. By that time, you were within his "extremis" zone and he probably could not avoid you. See rule 17.



COLREGS includes a measure of common sense, and the USCG has mentioned "the traditions of seamen" in a number of their interpretations. For example, the rights of human powered craft (oars, kayaks) are not specifically mentioned in COLREGS, but in some way resemble the interaction between a freighter and a pleasure yacht. The mass ratio is similar. Yes, there is no formal "rule of tonnage." There cannot be, for safety sake. But the tradition of seamen, and even people on the sidewalk, is that you give room to the person carrying heavy packages. In your case, just take your foot off the gas. Easy.



Yes, I understand that COLREGS is about predictable maneuvering. The "predictable" thing to do, when there is room (you had room at the start), is for microscopic pleasure yachts boats to give room to freighters (5-10 tons vs. 60,000-80,000 tons, a 1000:1 mass ratio).


Pilots are known to be very blunt. Clarity is more important than politeness.
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Old 02-06-2024, 07:16   #4
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

That is quite unusal - at least where I live.
My experience is that commercial shipping, including the pilots, prefer to act in accordance with the rules.

Also, a situation like this, with a bad outcome, would end that pilots carreer real fast.
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Old 02-06-2024, 07:19   #5
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

It sounds like the conflict wasn't close yet when the first conversation happened with the freighter, and at that point they were aware of your intentions. I'm going to disagree with Thinwater here, as it sounds like the pilot got upstairs, said "yeah, I don't care about that sailboat, he can screw off" and just went for it. Starting from moving at 1 kt they could easily have either sped up more slowly, adjusted course a bit, etc. to keep things a bit more spaced out than a 1/4 mile.

From my perspective, given the same situation, if they had already been moving at speed and it was looking close, I would likely have talked to them and offered to adjust my course or speed to space things out, especially if their planned speed into the harbor was faster than mine (where it would be easier for both of us if I follow them in rather than them following me). But in a situation where there was a potential for a conflict to develop, but it wasn't an issue with the current speed and course of each vessel, I would expect that they wouldn't create a conflict especially if I were the stand on vessel.

On the topic of asking them about speed, here's an example: there's a freighter that comes into our home port periodically. Because it's a fairly narrow channel with docks, marinas, etc, they typically keep their speed to 3 kts or less once they're inside the piers. My boat does just over 4 kts with both engines idling in gear and normal speed in the channel is closer to 5 kts. So if I'm coming in or out at the same time they are, either I want to be in front of them or far enough behind that I won't catch up. Trying to reduce to their speed for a mile becomes a pain, even more so if it's windy. And while there is technically room to pass them, I wouldn't want to do a same direction pass with only a 2 kt speed difference in waters that confined. An opposite direction pass is no big deal though.
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Old 02-06-2024, 07:39   #6
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

My general rule is that if on collision, my boat would be turned into microplastics and their boat wouldn't even need to buff out the blemish, they have the right of way.
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Old 02-06-2024, 07:41   #7
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

Understand your irritation with the lack of a courtesy reply but being a frequenter of the Baltimore channel I would have expected nothing different being under sail or motor.
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Old 02-06-2024, 07:59   #8
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

Pilot was perhaps a bit flippant in proclaiming the ship as "Restricted in ability to maneuver." Rule of Tonnage? Perhaps, but arguable since he was obviously on approach.

Leaving aside interpretation of the Rules, you were approaching from the west. There is plenty of water immediately outside the west channel. Why not just skirt the channel and be done with it? CPA might be 1/4 nm, but the TCPA would be infinity. (chart snip attached).

At any rate, I'm having a hard time finding sympathy with your position. Rules don't support it nor does common courtesy. As a suggestion, if this situation caused you grief, you may want to stay away from the Panama Canal zone......

Click image for larger version

Name:	San Juan Entrance.jpg
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Old 02-06-2024, 08:20   #9
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
Pilot was perhaps a bit flippant in proclaiming the ship as "Restricted in ability to maneuver." Rule of Tonnage? Perhaps, but arguable since he was obviously on approach.

Leaving aside interpretation of the Rules, you were approaching from the west. There is plenty of water immediately outside the west channel. Why not just skirt the channel and be done with it? CPA might be 1/4 nm, but the TCPA would be infinity. (chart snip attached).

At any rate, I'm having a hard time finding sympathy with your position. Rules don't support it nor does common courtesy. As a suggestion, if this situation caused you grief, you may want to stay away from the Panama Canal zone......

Attachment 290509
.

No, not “restricted in ability to maneuver”. That designation is limited to vessel engaged in work that limits their ability to follow the rules. Dredges, or buoy tenders for example. It never applies to cargo ships underway, or recreational vessels, ever.

Rather, the correct rule to apply here is Rule 9, b.
Quote:
A vessel of less than 20 m in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.
Clearly the entrance to San Juan harbor is a narrow channel to a cargo ship. I very much doubt the op would have been less butt hurt if the pilot had tried to explain Rule 9 to him. But I agree the pilot was a bit less polite than he could have been.
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Old 02-06-2024, 08:50   #10
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

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Originally Posted by carstenb View Post
oes first?

His answer was:

"Well we're bigger than you are"

Egads! A Pilot quoting the "Law of Tonnage"????? And totally ignoring the Colregs?
Exactly and all the cut and pasting of written "rules" wouldn't change it!
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Old 02-06-2024, 09:14   #11
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

Quote:
Originally Posted by SailingHarmonie View Post
.

No, not “restricted in ability to maneuver”. That designation is limited to vessel engaged in work that limits their ability to follow the rules. Dredges, or buoy tenders for example. It never applies to cargo ships underway, or recreational vessels, ever.
Here is the definition from the Rules:

(g) The term “vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver” means a vessel which from the nature of her work is restricted in her ability to maneuver as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel.


Perhaps case law has narrowed the defintion, but a ship entering a harbor would surely seem to fit this definition, especially since a PILOT is necessary for safe operation.

But I agree, 9(b) (which I had forgotten) places burden on the OP's vessel, though he did say they were outside the entrance lanes so not really in a fairway/channel. For reference, heres the 9(b) language:

(b) A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.
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Old 02-06-2024, 09:29   #12
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
Here is the definition from the Rules:

(g) The term “vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver” means a vessel which from the nature of her work is restricted in her ability to maneuver as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel.


Perhaps case law has narrowed the defintion, but a ship entering a harbor would surely seem to fit this definition, especially since a PILOT is necessary for safe operation.
What might ‘seem to be true” to you is just not the case, and is not the intent of the definition of RAM. RAM status is NOT applicable to any vessel under pilotage, entering a harbor, or in a narrow channel.

A vessel’s ‘work’ is not being underway, but something else that it is doing other than navigating.

There are many situations where it might be inconvenient for a vessel to maneuver, but those do not make it RAM. A good example would be a cargo ship drifting, I.e., underway but not making way. There is no special status to such a vessel, they are just motor vessels and are treated under the rules as such. Now, a sailboat that holds course and forces a close quarters situation with a ship drifting at a fraction of a knot is clearly violating the spirit of the rules if not a specific chapter and verse.
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Old 02-06-2024, 09:33   #13
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

The colregs are not so simple as stand on vs give way based upon who has who on port or starboard. There are numerous complications many already mentioned here.

Consider the entire situation. The ship is picking up her pilot, it is on a course decided by the pilot boat's captain and the pilot. As the pilot enters the bridge the captain will appraise the pilot of the entire situation hopefully including his conversation with you. The pilot will be in contact with whatever authorities and control agencies he must observe. He's going to be busy. You make no mention of other traffic in the area. The colregs steering and sailing rules apply to two vessels behavior, how many others are in the vicinity?

The ship will then immediately increase speed and make for the harbor. A large cargo vessel can accelerate quickly, but it cannot turn or stop so quickly. A recreational boat can however maneuver very quickly. Taking all that under consideration and after first contacting the cargo ship and being told they are awaiting the pilot's arrival on the bridge I would understand that rule #2 is to be seriously considered. I would have at that point made arrangements deferring to the cargo ship. My response to the ship's captain would be to acknowledge his situation and say something like "I will come to port (or slow, my choice depending upon which will give the best outcome) and take your stern." This makes it clear to the capt and the soon to be pilot that I will do what it takes to avoid a collision.

I say this as a long time professional of smaller boats, usually at or just under 20 meters. I never assumed heavy traffic would give way to me. Call this the right of way of tonnage or common sense and understanding of rule 2. It's the same.

Consider also that the behavior of the general majority of recreational traffic is unpredictable.

If it should get dicey as suggested above use your draft to your advantage. Go where the big one can't. I have used that to my advantage numerous times.

Yes, the pilot was rude. I've encountered that numerous times. Unfortunate but professional pressures and big egos don't always make for nice communications.
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Old 02-06-2024, 09:51   #14
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

In my neighborhood, a 1/4 mile CPA is considered "plenty of room". If I'm anywhere near the several harbors, I may have a few dozen vessels within 1/4 mile of me.
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Old 02-06-2024, 10:05   #15
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Re: Professional Pilot ignoring Colregs

With neither vessel in a channel I don't think it's a stretch to say that the ship Pilot was in the wrong as per Colregs and was an ass about it to boot. I also think the OPs actions were reasonable given the stated circumstances and he has good reason to be annoyed. That said in real life what matters is not dying - which argues for a policy of avoiding situations that put you in close proximity with massive hard objects, especially ones in motion. Call it my sailor's bias but I tend to assume that operators of motor vessels of any size are either ignorant of, or indifferent to whatever rules of the road are supposed to apply. I like to think that sailors know the rules but am constantly disappointed ;-)
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