In its latest Mars Report, The Nautical Institute warns officers to conduct proper checks of their steering gear. For example, did you know a minimum of two people are required to conduct these checks?

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:

A Seaways reader, member of The Nautical Institute and experienced navigation assessor, has sent the Mariners’ Alerting and Reporting Scheme (Mars) report editor the following note of interest. It is well worth reviewing:

One of the most frequent failures I find during navigation assessments is the testing of steering gear prior to departure from port. The ways in which tests are conducted are an eye opener, and range from (simply) turning on the steering motors and turning the rudder a few degrees each side of amidships through to the full test of all equipment. Often, no engineer is present in the steering flat to observe the mechanical operation and hence many elements of the test are not carried out.

Most of the pre-departure tests take place within one hour of sailing – a time when the Master and Chief Officer are busy with administration tasks and hence no supervision is provided.

I have witnessed occasions where these tests could have resulted in serious incidents had a failure occurred during departure. In the most recent example, a failure did occur but thanks to tugs still in attendance and made fast, a disaster was avoided.

Also read: Steering failure ends with ship hitting pier

Steering gear checks

Here is an example of the items to be checked:

  • Test of main steering gear;
  • Remote steering gear control systems;
  • Steering positions on the bridge;
  • Emergency power supply;
  • All rudder angle indicators;
  • Steering gear power failure alarms;
  • Automatic isolating equipment;
  • Visual inspection of steering gear and linkages for damage and hydraulic leaks.

The regulations governing steering gear are covered in SOLAS Chapter II-I Regulation 29 & 30. The key issue is a that minimum of two people are required to carry out these checks; a deck officer and an engineer officer.

Also read: Fatigue and weak bridge practices contribute to expensive allision

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202236, 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.