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Collision prevention

Date 07-04-2021 Views 391

By Capt. Huy / Nam Anh Inter Co., Ltd - Steer Your Dream

What Can We Do?

  1. Keep a constant lookout, astern as well as forward, and be aware of your relation to all boats, buoys, or other features. Pilots call this "situation awareness."
  2. Stay out of the way: Avoid sailing or motoring in ship channels, especially if visibility is poor because of fog, rain or darkness. Big ships must stay in the deep channels, and most smaller vessels don't need to. No matter how fast your boat, it is best to pass well astern of a ship or barge. Remember, no boat has ever sunk by passing behind a moving ship.
  3. Do not underestimate the speed of a large vessel: If your boat is slow, a sailboat for example, you might not be able to take effective evasive action if you find yourself on a collision course with a large ship in visibility of a quarter-mile or less -- the speed differential is simply too great.
  4. Be visible: At night, make sure that your navigation lights are bright and are not obscured by sails, flags or dinghies in davits. If you see the running lights of a vessel and you don't think you have been seen, begin to get out of the way, using flashlights on sails, a spot-light, flash bulbs, or a white flare to indicate your position (a strobe light should be reserved as a distress signal only). Carry a radar reflector as high on the boat as you can.
  5. Keep watch at night: Even on a clear night you will have difficulty seeing a big ship approach. You might see it first as a black shadow against a background of shore lights, or as a shadow moving rapidly across still water -- at that point you are not far apart. Remember that your lights will not be easily spotted from the ship.
  6. Watch the ship's lights: Pay attention to the sidelights as well as to masthead and range lights. On a large ship the white range lights, with the aft light higher than the forward light, will help you determine the ship's direction. If you see both red and green sidelights, you're dead ahead -- MOVE OUT FAST. Also learn to recognize the mast lights of a tug towing one or more barges and of a commercial fishing vessel towing a net.
  7. Know whistle signals, used only when vessels are in sight of one another. The pilot of a ship will frequently not use the "port" or "starboard" whistle signals when passing small boats because he is afraid the signals will not be understood and might lead to erratic changes in course. If you hear five or more short blasts on the whistle, it is the "danger" signal. Check and see if it is for you -- and if it is, make way fast.
  8. Use your radio: If you have a VHF radio aboard, remember that while channel 16 is the calling and distress frequency, channel 13 is the working frequency used to arrange safe meeting and passing between ships and other watercraft. If you do hail a ship, identify yourself relative to a numbered buoy or some other reference point. Do not use these channels for chatter, and keep radio use to a responsible minimum. The Coast Guard encourages the use of channel 9 for nonemergency hailing purposes among small craft.
  9. Choose safe anchorages: Never anchor or hove to in a shipping channel, and never tie up to a channel marker or buoy. Coast Guard buoys tell ships "here is where you must pass," and it is illegal, as well as unsafe, to tie up to them.
  10. Use binoculars: At night especially they can help you determine ships' lights and direction with greater accuracy. Get into the habit of sweeping the horizon 360 degrees at least every fifteen minutes, more frequently in poor conditions.
  11. Carry a radar reflector: Though no guarantee that a ship will spot you, a radar reflector at least improves your chances.
  12. Remember that ships displace many thousands of tons of water, creating surges and wakes, which may be amplified in shallow water in proximity to land.
  13. Note that around some restricted areas -- such as military installations, the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant or the Cove Point LNG facility -- there are safety zones through which recreational boats are forbidden to pass.

Collision Avoidance Checklist

  • Call Master or another officer if you are in doubt.
  • Avoid ship channels where possible, or cross them quickly.
  • Be alert: Watch for ship traffic.
  • Think before you drink! 
  • Be seen, especially at night.
  • Know whistle signals: Five or more mean danger.
  • Use radio channel 13 for bridge-to-bridge communication.
  • Use up-to-date navigation charts.
  • Keep in mind that few survive collisions with ships.
  • When in doubt, keep clear.
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