UASC SCHUAIBA, containership

photo by Rob Almeida / gCaptain.com

I was delivering a 40-foot sailboat up from Chesapeake Bay this week and as we were motoring past the shipping channels lanes leading in and out of New York, we found ourselves on a collision course with an outbound containership, the UASC SHUAIBA.

We were on course 050 at 7 knots and about 2.5 miles off the starboard bow of this big bastard, and after repeated hails on 16 and 13, I threw the helm over hard to port, but as I was doing that, his port running light slowly came into view and it was clear the mate on watch was turning to starboard in an effort to take my stern.

Fortunately the aggressiveness of my turn caught their attention and they swerved back to port, but damn, how about next time we all make it a point to keep the VHF radio turned on…

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  • Bythewind

    Why on earth did you alter to port when you already found yourself in a close quarters situation with a big container ship? It could very well have happened that due to his own alteration to stbd – which was absolutely conform with the COLREG – he might have lost visual contact with you. Did you not realize that he sees nothing 250m ahead of his bow? For him any considerable course alteration takes about 3 minutes in which he makes about 1 nm headway.

    • Rob

      We were on their starboard side crossing at 90 degree angle to their course.  Trying to crossing the bow of a containership that had no appreciable bearing drift was not an option.

      • Bythewind

        I understand you were motorin. So your possibilities would have been:

        1. alter course to stbd and go on a parallel course to the container ship until they overtake you. This should not have lasted too long since container ships of this size normally run 20+ knots.
        2. if you think the first would get you too far from your intended track then make a full circle over stbd.
        3. stop the engine and wait until the container ship has passed you.

        In any case altering course to port in your situation is not allowed as per rule 17:

        17 (a) (ii) The latter vessel may however take action to avoid collision by
        her maneuver alone, as soon as it becomes apparent to her that the
        vessel required to keep out of the way is not taking appropriate action
        in accordance with these Rules.

        17 (b) When, from any cause, the vessel required to keep her course and
        speed finds herself so close that collision cannot be avoided by the
        action of the give-way vessel alone, she shall take such action as will
        best aid to avoid collision.

        17 (c) A power driven vessel which takes action in a crossing situation
        in accordance with subparagraph (a)(ii) of this Rule to avoid collision
        with another power driven
        vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, not alter course to port for a vessel on her own port side.

        • Rob

          We turned over 100 degrees within a single boat length, so whether we turned to port or starboard would have made no difference to anyone looking on the radar, or visually.  The most important consideration was that we turned in such a manner to make our intentions completely apparent to the mate on watch.  As the stand on vessel in this case, rule 17 (a,b) applies, as it was clear that the approaching containership was not taking appropriate action to avoid collision.  We clearly violated 17(c), however, as I previously mentioned, we turned so sharply, that whether we turned to port or starboard would have made no difference out there on the ocean.  In the courtroom, sure, that might be a point of contention, however, I did what I had to do in order to get the f-outta the way of the containership.

  • Cgaux1401

    READ RULE 9 b of the NAVIGATION RULES!!!!!!! “A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.” USCG Sector New York actively enforces Operation Clear Channel in New York Harbor. You were lucky this time Captain………

    • Guest

      That Is assuming that this all occurred in a narrow channel or fairway. To me this sounds like it occurred outside of a traffic separation scheme or a narrow channel or fairway. Rule 9 wouldn’t be applicable.

      • Cgaux1401

        The writer only described it as “we were motoring past the shipping channels leading in and out of New York”  If not in a “narrow Channel” such as Ambrose or Sandy Hook Channel, then Rules 7 and 8 will apply. If in the Traffic separation lanes approaching New York Harbor, then Rule 10 will apply.  Regardless, Rules 2 and 18 still apply. Not being there and not having the location, we all can only speculate.  However, had there been an incident, then the members at the long green Table will decide who was responsible.

    • Rob

      we were 70 miles offshore there wiseguy.

  • Untrainable

    Why put the helm hard over? Why not pull back and slow everything down. A wise captain once told me “why screw it up fast, when you can screw it up slow”. COLREG Rule 8 Part (e) makes it clear that slowing down to asses a situation is an appropriate action. I agree with Bythewind, putting the helm hard over to port created a whole new close quarters situation and probably scared the mate on watch. 

    • Rob

      We were going 7 knots, and we had containership going full speed right at us.  Getting out of the way as blatantly as possible was the only option.  

      • http://twitter.com/rajeerajan Rajee Rajan

        Rule 17 (c) says “A power driven vessel which takes action in a crossing situation in accordance with subparagraph (a)(ii) of this Rule to avoid collission with another power driven vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, not alter course to port for a vessel on her port side”.

        In a 40 ft sailboat, you could have waited a little longer before determining that the containership was doing nothing and then should have altered course to starboard to comply with Colregs.

  • YellowFinII

    She was more than likely monitoring the radar, making sure there was a resonable CPA, which wasn’t mentioned..Half a mile away is plenty of room for a sail boat. Also, was your VHF on high or low power, being that close on high power the signal could have came in completely distorted, making it almost impossible to understand.. Just a thought. There was def something up with the VHF on the ship side…. There’s too many variable to reely say, we don’t know if your squelch was too high or the others was. And with regards to the colregs, radio comms are a technically a secondary means of responding to a situation, the written rules are number one

    • http://gcaptain.com gcaptain

      “Half a mile away is plenty of room for a sail boat.”  Are you serious? 

      “Squelch too high” What?

      “being that close on high power the signal could have came in completely distorted” No, this wasn’t a pirate radio station… it was an FCC approved 25watt radio. 

      I’m closing the comments on this article… too many assumptions without basis in fact. -John

  • Guest

    Bear in mind there is no obligation to monitor VHF Ch.16 since the introduction of GMDSS plus collision avoidance by VHF is not recommended and considered poor practice.

    From UK Maritime Coastguard Agency MGN 324″Use of VHF as Collision Avoidance Aid7.    There have been a significant number of collisions where subsequent investigation has found that at some stage before impact, one or both parties were using VHF radio in an attempt to avoid collision.  The use of VHF radio in these circumstances is not always helpful and may even prove to be dangerous.8.    At night, in restricted visibility or when there are more than two vessels in the vicinity, the need for positive identification is essential but this can rarely be guaranteed.  Uncertainties can arise over the identification of vessels and the interpretation of messages received. Even where positive identification has been achieved there is still the possibility of a misunderstanding due to language difficulties however fluent the parties concerned might be in the language being used.  An imprecise or ambiguously expressed message could have serious consequences.9.    Valuable time can be wasted whilst mariners on vessels approaching each other try to make contact on VHF radio instead of complying with the Collision Regulations.  There is the further danger that even if contact and identification is achieved and no difficulties over the language of communication or message content arise, a course of action might still be chosen that does not comply with the Collision Regulations.  This may lead to the collision it was intended to prevent.   10.   In 1995, the judge in a collision case said “It is very probable that the use of VHF radio for conversation between these ships was a contributory cause of this collision, if only because it distracted the officers on watch from paying careful attention to their radar.  I must repeat, in the hope that it will achieve some publicity, what I have said on previous occasions that any attempt to use VHF to agree the manner of passing is fraught with the danger of misunderstanding.  Marine Superintendents would be well advised to prohibit such use of VHF radio and to instruct their officers to comply with the Collision Regulations.”11.   In a case published in 2002 one of two vessels, approaching each other in fog, used the VHF radio to call for a red to red (port to port) passing. The call was acknowledged by the other vessel but unfortunately, due to the command of English on the calling vessel, what the caller intended was a green to green (starboard to starboard) passing. The actions were not effectively monitored by either of the vessels and collision followed.12.   Again in a case published in 2006 one of two vessels, approaching one another to involve a close quarter’s situation, agreed to a starboard to starboard passing arrangement with a person on board another, unidentified ship, but not the approaching vessel. Furthermore, the passing agreement required one of the vessels to make an alteration of course, contrary to the requirements of the applicable Rule in the COLREGS. Had the vessel agreed to a passing arrangement requiring her to manoeuvre in compliance with the COLREGS, the ships would have passed clear, despite the misidentification of ships on the VHF radio. Unfortunately by the time both vessels realised that the ships had turned towards each other the distance between them had further reduced to the extent that the last minute avoiding action taken by both ships was unable to prevent a collision.13.   Although the practice of using VHF radio as a collision avoidance aid may be resorted to on occasion, for example in pilotage waters, the risks described in this note should be clearly understood and the Collision Regulations complied with.  “http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/mcga07-home/shipsandcargoes/mcga-shipsregsandguidance/marinenotices/mcga-mnotice.htm?textobjid=908E08C2F38A0072.

  • Guest

    Bear in mind there is no obligation to monitor VHF Ch.16 since the introduction of GMDSS plus collision avoidance by VHF is not recommended and considered poor practice.

    From UK Maritime Coastguard Agency MGN 324″Use of VHF as Collision Avoidance Aid7.    There have been a significant number of collisions where subsequent investigation has found that at some stage before impact, one or both parties were using VHF radio in an attempt to avoid collision.  The use of VHF radio in these circumstances is not always helpful and may even prove to be dangerous.8.    At night, in restricted visibility or when there are more than two vessels in the vicinity, the need for positive identification is essential but this can rarely be guaranteed.  Uncertainties can arise over the identification of vessels and the interpretation of messages received. Even where positive identification has been achieved there is still the possibility of a misunderstanding due to language difficulties however fluent the parties concerned might be in the language being used.  An imprecise or ambiguously expressed message could have serious consequences.9.    Valuable time can be wasted whilst mariners on vessels approaching each other try to make contact on VHF radio instead of complying with the Collision Regulations.  There is the further danger that even if contact and identification is achieved and no difficulties over the language of communication or message content arise, a course of action might still be chosen that does not comply with the Collision Regulations.  This may lead to the collision it was intended to prevent.   10.   In 1995, the judge in a collision case said “It is very probable that the use of VHF radio for conversation between these ships was a contributory cause of this collision, if only because it distracted the officers on watch from paying careful attention to their radar.  I must repeat, in the hope that it will achieve some publicity, what I have said on previous occasions that any attempt to use VHF to agree the manner of passing is fraught with the danger of misunderstanding.  Marine Superintendents would be well advised to prohibit such use of VHF radio and to instruct their officers to comply with the Collision Regulations.”11.   In a case published in 2002 one of two vessels, approaching each other in fog, used the VHF radio to call for a red to red (port to port) passing. The call was acknowledged by the other vessel but unfortunately, due to the command of English on the calling vessel, what the caller intended was a green to green (starboard to starboard) passing. The actions were not effectively monitored by either of the vessels and collision followed.12.   Again in a case published in 2006 one of two vessels, approaching one another to involve a close quarter’s situation, agreed to a starboard to starboard passing arrangement with a person on board another, unidentified ship, but not the approaching vessel. Furthermore, the passing agreement required one of the vessels to make an alteration of course, contrary to the requirements of the applicable Rule in the COLREGS. Had the vessel agreed to a passing arrangement requiring her to manoeuvre in compliance with the COLREGS, the ships would have passed clear, despite the misidentification of ships on the VHF radio. Unfortunately by the time both vessels realised that the ships had turned towards each other the distance between them had further reduced to the extent that the last minute avoiding action taken by both ships was unable to prevent a collision.13.   Although the practice of using VHF radio as a collision avoidance aid may be resorted to on occasion, for example in pilotage waters, the risks described in this note should be clearly understood and the Collision Regulations complied with.  “http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/mcga07-home/shipsandcargoes/mcga-shipsregsandguidance/marinenotices/mcga-mnotice.htm?textobjid=908E08C2F38A0072.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KSLMYSDBDX5LVYW3F5QWWI6XUM paulthepirate

    As Rajee Rajan mentioned, under normal circumstances, when possible, you should be turning to starboard to avoid collision. Regardless of that, making an obvious and drastic turn was good seamanship on your part, as the OOW would clearly see your intentions at that point.
             I’m not sure how other operators do it, but my experience on tankers in traffic with small boats usually relied on the small boat to make any necessary course or speed changes. Practically speaking, this is the safest and most polite thing to do. When it was necessary for us to make any course changes, we would wait until 1.5 to 20.0 nm in order to avoid any foolishness on the part of the small boat. 90% of the time, the small vessel would alter course to maintain a close-quarters CPA regardless of what we did.

  • Bbrucato

    If you were on his starboard bow and he’s coming right, he saw you and was acting correctly and according to the rules, his course change at 2.5 miles is prudent and correct.  Your maneuver to port was the last thing he wanted to see.  At 20-plus knots, he’s watching you very carefully and hoping you do the right thing.  Of course the moment you turned to port you closed the CPA dramatically. Lucky for you he was able to put his rudder over and avoid you and your poor choice of turn.  Holding course and speed if privileged is the rule, you altered to port and toward the oncoming vessel while he was trying to pass under your stern.  Radio or not, you were wrong.  Lucky for him (and you) he had the sea  room to get away from you….

    (I was delivering a 40-foot sailboat up from Chesapeake Bay this week and as we were MOTORING  past the shipping lanes leading in and out of New York, we found ourselves on a collision course with an outbound containership, the UASC SHUIABA.)
    “Rule 17 (c) says “A power driven vessel which takes action in a crossing situation in accordance with subparagraph (a)(ii) of this Rule to avoid collision with another power driven vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, not alter course to port for a vessel on her port side”.
    In a 40 ft sailboat, you could have waited a little longer before determining that the containership was doing nothing and then should have altered course to starboard to comply with Colregs.”
    Rajee Rajan; Absolutely on the mark.  

    • Rob

      At 2.5 miles, after unsuccessful hails on VHF, as I mentioned before, I turned the boat so that it would be completely apparent what my intentions were to the mate on the bridge.  Being off the containership’s starboard bow, I turned hard to port so that I could ensure that my bow was now pointing to the left of the stern of the containership, that I could easily monitor any maneuvers of the containership, and lastly, to ensure right bearing drift.  

      I disagree with your assumption that “he’s watching you very carefully hoping you do the right thing”. This ship was on a collision course with a boat that for all he knew, was a sailboat, which certainly had the right of way in this case.  And considering the fact I was off his starboard bow crossing from right to left, I had the right of way in that case as well.  As the stand on vessel, I held my course until  it was clear that the give way vessel was not taking sufficient action to avoid me, or was not aware of me.  

      Trying to cross the bow of an 800-foot long containership going 20 knots that possibly didn’t know I was there would have been a bad call.  Waiting longer in this case, would only have reduced available maneuvering options.  If you’re the mate on the bridge of a ship, or the skipper of an offshore sailboat, and you have doubt in your mind as to the intentions of another vessel, I don’t suggest letting time call your next move…  

  • Nitelunch

    Not enough information to get a good view of your self righteous rant. Just an observation, but you too, as the small bastard, need to remember your responsibilities as stated in the Rules. They apply equally to you. Rule 8 f and Rule 10 j jump out at first glance, but again, not enough detail has been supplied to flesh out the scenario you describe. You obviously have not had much in the way of ship handling experience if you expect the containership to react like your 40 foot delivery vessel. And what pray tell were you doing while attempting contact on vhf? Wasting minutes where actions could have spoken louder than words. Early and substantial helps out both parties in a case like this.

    • wafi

      If I was in a similar situation on my sailing ship, or any other vessel, I would expect, at the very least, to be able to communicate with the other vessel; ie intentions,, “do you see me etc..”,
       without the ability to communicate, it remains a guessing game, despite the rules set in place

    • Rob

      If not enough detail has been supplied for you to understand this scenario, then clearly not enough detail has been supplied for you to make such “obvious” assumptions.

  • Don M

    Looks to me like you cleared at a distance of more than 1/2 mile.

    These guys get the crap badgered ouit of them all the time, by small boats hailing them for seemingly superflous passing arraingements.

    By the same token I was towing a vessel on the hip the other day and could not get a sailboat under power to answere 16 or 13, or repeated whistle signals until he was within 1/8 of a mile. By his actions he was deterimined to pass port to port, until it became painfully obvious that to do so would have required him to operate on land. I was making an approach to a dock on my port side, and was downbound with the current.

    Remember, as the stand on vessel you may have the right of way, but if the conditions warrant I would rather give way at the last moment than to be DEAD RIGHT. Also a deep draft ship will not navigate out of the channel to give you the right of way, if doing so will result in the ship running aground.

  • Don M

    Looks to me like you cleared at a distance of more than 1/2 mile.

    These guys get the crap badgered ouit of them all the time, by small boats hailing them for seemingly superflous passing arraingements.

    By the same token I was towing a vessel on the hip the other day and could not get a sailboat under power to answere 16 or 13, or repeated whistle signals until he was within 1/8 of a mile. By his actions he was deterimined to pass port to port, until it became painfully obvious that to do so would have required him to operate on land. I was making an approach to a dock on my port side, and was downbound with the current.

    Remember, as the stand on vessel you may have the right of way, but if the conditions warrant I would rather give way at the last moment than to be DEAD RIGHT. Also a deep draft ship will not navigate out of the channel to give you the right of way, if doing so will result in the ship running aground.

  • David Hindin

    It is very likely that the vessel you encountered was UASC SHUAIBA (S H U A I B A) rather than UASC SHUIABA (S H U I A B A) as written above
     
    http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/shipdetails.aspx?MMSI=636091910
     
    Was your vessel AIS equipped?

  • Cgaux1401

    Rob, I really don’t care if you call me a wiseguy or any other name. It would be one of my fellow watchstanders that will activate the SAR alarm and send young men and women into uncertain danger for a search and rescue mission in heavily traveled shipping lanes because some small vessel master maintained they had the right of way in an encounter with a much larger commercial vessel. The General Prudential rule still applies, avoid a collision at all costs!

  • Tom S

    Turning to port for a vessel on your port side….?????

    From the COLREGS:

    Part B, Steering and Sailing

    Section II

    17. The stand-on vessel:The stand-on vessel shall maintain her course and speed, but she may take action to avoid collision if it becomes clear that the give-way vessel is not taking appropriate action, or when so close that collision can no longer be avoided by the actions of the give-way vessel alone. IN A CROSSING SITUATION, the STAND-ON VESSEL SHOULD AVOID TURNING TO PORT even if the give-way vessel is not taking appropriate action. These options for the stand-on vessel do not relieve the give-way vessel of her obligations under the rules.
    Also, a large vessel making a course change at 2 – 2.5 miles is not unusual, especially in restricted or congested waters.  Over the years I’ve been witness to course changes made at much closer distances due to the conditions existing at the particular moment.

    Agree that the container ship should have been monitoring the appropriate VHF channels and if they were that close to the shipping lanes, it is hard to imagine that they weren’t.  What was the state of the surrounding traffic?  Were they in a TSS? 

    However, regardless of everything I’ve said in this last paragraph and as it turned out, it seems that it was the container ship that was properly following the Rules of the Road by altering course to starboard for a vessel on its starboard side (Rule 15).

  • https://gaowei.com 不锈钢茶壶

    There is no sufficient info to re-build the initial situation, probably it was a crossign situation and that guy was the vessel to give way….. 

  • Dubby49

    Rob – The decision on when to determine that the give way vessel is doing nothing to avoid a collision and to initiate evasive action is yours. You can do it at 2.5 miles or 0.5 or 5.0 or whatever you think best. However, the alteration to port was a clear violation of Rule 17(c). The reason for the guidance is that in the normal course the give way vessel will alter course to stbd (as he did in this case). If he initiates this action at the same time as you or marginally later, both vessels will be turning towards each other resulting in further complications. The correct action is to to turn to STBD. If you observe the other guy altering to stbd, you can stop your turn and resume course. If he continues on his merry way blissfully ignorant of your presence or ignoring you, complete the round turn and exercise your vocabulary of expletives either on or off VHF. If the Shuaiba had continued her turn to stbd and an unfortunate collision had occurred, I would think the judge would assign the greater share of the blame to you for turning the wrong way.

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