6th September 2023

Collision between a fishing vessel and ferry in port

Initial Report

Shortly after a RO-RO ship left its berth, it collided with an inbound fishing vessel. The fishing vessel sank, but all 7 of the crew were safely recovered. In this port, vessels needed to request permission to enter or leave so that vessel movements could be deconflicted by the port’s traffic services to avoid potential collisions, although this rule was often ignored by smaller vessels. In this case, the fishing vessel did not have a working radio, so there was no communication between the vessel and the port, nor could it hear that the RO-RO vessel calling after it had left
its berth.

CHIRP Comment

The causes of this incident were present a long time before it happened. By allowing smaller vessels to ignore the requirement to radio for permission to enter or leave, deficiencies in the ports monitoring or detection systems went unnoticed. Potentially, the reduced emphasis on radio communication from small vessels made it less likely that fishing vessels would carry a spare radio, and possibly meant that the failure of the primary radio went unnoticed. In any case. The port did not detect the inbound vessel and granted the RO-RO permission to leave its berth.

The activities involved in entering or leaving a harbour likely distracted the bridge teams on both from their primary task of keeping a good lookout to detect the risk of collision (Collision Regulations rule 5). In any event, even when risk of collision was determined, neither vessel took the correct action to avoid collision (rules 8 and 17).

Key Issues relating to this report

Situational Awareness – This report highlights the importance of effective monitoring and detection systems to be in place, especially in high-traffic areas. Port entry or exit is a high-risk operation, and vessel operators should be vigilant and maintain situational awareness to prevent collisions.

Communication – If the fishing vessel had carried a handheld VHF as a back-up, (which in any case is essential emergency equipment should you ever have to abandon ship) this incident might have been avoided. The fishing vessel’s inability to inform the port of their intention to enter or respond to the ferry’s attempts to contact them contributed to the collision. Timely and clear communication between vessels and port authorities is essential for safe navigation. A radio check before leaving or entering the harbour is good seamanship.

Local Practices – In this port, smaller vessels commonly ignored the requirement to request permission to enter or leave. The port authority should enforce the requirement to report because it hampers the port’s ability to operate a safe harbour. Are you aware of your reporting requirements when arriving or departing a port?

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