The Confidential Reporting Programme for Aviation and Maritime (CHIRP) actively encourages seafarers to submit reports of any incidents and near misses they experience in order to share those reports and examine the lessons to be learned, with the aim of creating a greater maritime safety culture worldwide. CHIRP’s regular bulletins are mainly comprised of reports from commercial ships or small pleasure vessels, but the latest bulletin includes a report submitted from a 50m superyacht.

The superyacht’s incident report was compiled alongside a number of other cases involving various misunderstandings of the collision regulations (COLREGS), in which some general themes emerged. It involves – as written by the reporter – a ‘blatant disregard of the COLREGS in the Aegean Sea’, involving a superyacht under power and a general cargo ship.

The cargo ship, M/V ‘x’, was detected at an approximate range of eight nautical miles (nm) on the superyacht’s port bow with a Closest Point of Approach (CPA) of less than 0.35nm and a Time to Closest Point of Approach (TCPA) of approximately 40 minutes. The superyacht’s watchkeepers monitored the ship’s movements until the TCPA was approximately 25 minutes, and then attempted to establish radio communication through both voice and DSC on a regular basis, with no response received. Both vessels were travelling at about nine knots, so the superyacht's crew decided to maintain course and speed while continuing to try to obtain radio contact.

“When the range reached one mile, I began sounding my horn and prepared to take avoiding action,” the reporter recalls. “The range closed to around 0.5nm and I continued sounding my horn. We were observing through binoculars and in their deck lights a crewmember was visible leaving the crew accommodation and rushing to the bridge. At this point the vessel made a bold alteration of course to port, put her stern towards us, steamed away from our track and slowed down. We maintained course and speed and passed with a CPA of around 0.5nm. I tried to raise the vessel on VHF again but still received no response. We continued on our passage safely, maintaining a proper look out with engines and steering at the ready.”

"My experience of transiting this part of the Mediterranean has taught me that the standards of watchkeeping on many of the smaller merchant vessels in this area is very poor."

The reporter goes on to describe the lessons learned from the incident: “My experience of transiting this part of the Mediterranean has taught me that the standards of watchkeeping on many of the smaller merchant vessels in this area is very poor. They regularly ignore the rules of the road and rarely respond to the VHF when called if a close-quarter situation is developing, as they do not wish to have to change course or speed to comply. There seems to be an apparent attitude that yachts should always give way regardless of the circumstances. My vessel is 50m and 530gt and so not a small craft, but we regularly find ourselves in circumstances such as last night’s events."

“We had some other traffic around us [that] night and would have created another close quarters’ situation with other vessels had we slowed down or changed course," the reporter continues to explain. "M/V ‘x’ had unrestricted sea room to pass by our stern, but it appears she had no one on watch in the bridge if our observations through the binoculars of a crewmember rushing to the bridge were correct.”

CHIRP’s Maritime Advisory Board discussed each report relating to the COLREGS and noted that there were several themes running through them, including the reliance on VHF. It was highlighted that the collision regulations are specifically designed to operate without the need for any VHF intervention. “If you are the stand-on vessel, then as soon as you think you are in doubt, then you actually are in doubt, and that is the time to take your own avoiding action or to reduce speed,” the advisory board writes. “In all of the reports, it is easy to simply look at the actions or inactions of the parties involved and apportion blame, but this does not identify the root cause(s), which may lie in the qualifications and experience of personnel.” 

CHIRP summarises that reports of this nature should be encouraged – they come from many areas of the world and demonstrate that, in terms of maritime best practice, the industry is far from perfect. “There is still a long way to go before we can say that COLREGS are being observed by all ships,” the bulletin ends. 

Please note, the above is an edited version of the CHIRP report. To read about the incident in full, click here for the latest CHIRP bulletin.


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