Collision due to Miscommunication



In darkness, two vessels under pilotage were approaching each other in a very restricted canal. Shortly after rounding the bend in the canal, the vessels came into view of one another. It appeared to the pilot of vessel A that vessel B was slightly crowding the north side of the channel. Accordingly, he decided to give a little more room for the meeting to take place by moving closer to the north bank. The pilot did not communicate his intentions to either the pilot of the other vessel nor to the navigation personnel of his ship. When satisfied with the vessel’s position in the channel, he asked the helmsman to steer 248° gyro (G). The helmsman complied but found that the vessel needed regular inputs of 5° to 10° starboard helm in order to maintain the heading. The OOW was standing by the helmsman verifying his actions.

For the next few minutes, more than 10° starboard helm was applied
to maintain the heading on vessel A. Thereafter, 20° to 30° starboard
helm was necessary to steer the desired course and, as the vessel had a
flap type rudder, the helmsman was able to keep the required course of
248°. During this time, the pilot reportedly glanced at the rudder angle
indicator from time to time, but there was no exchange of information
among bridge team members. During this time the pilot gradually
reduced the propeller pitch to slow the vessel down before the
meeting. Since completing the bend at 7.6 knots, vessel A was now
making 5.7 knots.

There is conflicting information with respect to the helm orders
given next on vessel A. The navigation personnel maintain that
the pilot ordered the helm amidships, whereas the pilot does not
recollect this order. The helm was nonetheless put to midships and
the vessel immediately started to sheer to port. Full starboard helm
was then applied, but the vessel’s heading continued to swing to port.
The two vessels collided near mid-channel at a combined speed of
approximately 6 knots.


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