The Nautical Institute warns that a pilot boarding a vessel does not mean the bridge team can relax. In a recent Mars Report, this led to a near collision, where two vessels finally passed each other at just 35 metres.

The Nautical Institute gathers reports of maritime accidents and near-misses. It then publishes these so-called Mars Reports (anonymously) to prevent other accidents from happening. A summary of this incident:

In darkness, a vessel was proceeding to a busy anchorage under the con of a pilot who had just boarded. The pilot and master engaged in small talk as they proceeded and there was also an officer of the watch (OOW) and a lookout on the bridge. Another vessel underway in the vicinity had recently altered course to port and, unknown to the bridge team or pilot, was now in a potential close quarters situation. Almost ten minutes passed before the potential close quarters situation was observed by local VTS and the bridge team alerted to the danger by VHF radio.

Only now, with the other vessel just 0.3 nm away, was it plotted. There was initially some confusion as to the speed of the other vessel as the value was changing; but this was to be expected in the first minute after plotting as the ARPA target acquisition algorithm needs to refine the calculations. Emergency course alterations were made and the bridge team tried to communicate with the other vessel by VHF radio. As the distance decreased between the two vessels, the bridge team, now under some stress, sounded a long blast on the fog horn. Finally, the other vessel passed astern only 35 metres away.

Also read: Failing to question the pilot results in vessel grounding

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • A common mistake when a pilot boards is for the bridge team to relax; the unstated assumption is that the pilot has everything under control. Not so! The bridge team must continue to do their jobs in full support of the pilot and visa versa.
  • As part of a bridge team, never assume that someone else will see it. It is possible for any member of the bridge team to make an error or miss a cue. YOU may be the only one that identifies a potentially hazardous situation, and for this reason, every bridge team member should be alert.
  • The danger signal is at least five short blasts.

Also read: Not challenging the pilot leads to passenger vessel grounding

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202235, that are part of Report Number 358. A selection of this Mars Report was also published in SWZ|Maritime’s September 2022 issue. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published (in full) on SWZ|Maritime’s website.

More reports are needed to keep the scheme interesting and informative. All reports are read only by the Mars coordinator and are treated in the strictest confidence. To submit a report, please use the Mars report form.

Also read: Dare to relieve the pilot when ship manoeuvres go wrong