Maritime mishaps occur mostly due to negligence, which fortunately can be avoided with good practice
Marine accidents come in many forms but majority can be prevented. Through the years, there were numerous reports of marine collisions. Incidences of oil-spill from a collision illustrate the importance of good practices onboard. Below are seven ways to avoid marine mishaps:
1. Do not depend solely on Safety Management System
The safety management system (SMS) is an organised system planned and implemented by the shipping companies to ensure safety of the ship and marine environment. Many vessel managers remain dependent on the company’s SMS for determining positions at specified intervals. The possibility of such errors can be minimised by adopting Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS).
2. Do a proper visual look-out as radars can miss
There have been reported cases of radar not detecting small-sized vessels, which can result in dire consequences. Piloting a vessel fully dependent on radar leads to increased collision risks. If the radar detects a vessel within range, the captain will immediately activate manual control to avoid a collision. However, another vessel can be in the altered course undetected by radar – leading to a collision. This can be avoided just by a proper visual look-out.
3. Alter the course as early as possible to avoid collisions
It is only basic for officers to pay attention when ABs onboard alert about a target head on the radar. When a crew member sounds the alert for possible target, never dismiss or assume it to be a false echo. Altering the course early is a good preventive measure against collision.
4. Be mindful of the buoys
Buoys guide ships at sea. A starboardhand buoy marks the starboard (right) side of a channel or where a danger is located. In maritime rules, the captain has to alter the ship’s course to starboard (turning right) to avoid collision if there are two vessels meeting on reciprocal or near reciprocal courses. The same applies to night conditions; in the event of spotting a ship’s masthead lights in line or nearly so.
5. Get the rudder bearings right
While the captain should be always ready to give commands to avoid collisions, officers on watch or the captain should check the outcome of the command in order to make sure that it is executed properly. It is always important to keep an eye on the Rudder angle indicator (RAI) to avoid collisions.
The crucial aspect of communication is giving and receiving the right message. Seafarers are required to act and react accordingly during routine and emergency situations. While transmission of orders is important, the seafarer needs to carry out what was instructed, confirmed by the captain. Through proper communication, captains are able to identify the causes of the accidents and take necessary actions to prevent it altogether.
7. Know your ECDIS!
An Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) is a geographic information system used for nautical navigation that complies with International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations as an alternative to paper nautical charts. Seafarers need to be familiar with the basic functions of the device. Flag states are also recommended to review their training for ECDIS procedures; having alternative tracking mediums in shallow waters, using the right cart scales, ensuring the warning alarms and safety settings are correct.
Maritime training will be of paramount importance to remain relevant in the industry, and complicate even further during post-pandemic recovery. Seafers can look to Marine Online’s extensive network of training providers to update themselves of the latest best practices.