Table of contents

Can they be avoided?

Over the last few weeks there have been a number of collisions reported to AMSA and while some (not many) where unavoidable most were avoidable.

A brief outline of some incidents:

  • The Master fell overboard, and the vessel collided with a nearby wharf. What can I say!
  • A vessel suffered engine failure and drifted into a docked vessel. Engine failure can happen at times. Minor damage
  • A vessels anchor dragged and collided with a moored vessel. Extensive damage
  • Vessel collided with a ferry terminal during berthing. Crew members sustained minor to moderate injuries
  • Vessel’s bow swung out rapidly and collided with nearby wharf structure during towing operations. The vessel then swung back and contacted a timber pile on the wharf. No injuries, minor damage!
  • During towing operations, the vessel collided with the vessel under tow. The bollard broke off the deck of the towed vessel, no injuries reported
  • A vessel collided with a vessel on anchor. Moderate damage to both vessels, no injuries reported.

And this is just a snapshot of one (1) month! A couple of the above incidents were unavoidable, can you identify them?

Most of the above incidents were avoidable by either following related procedures, you do have them don’t you? Or maintenance, servicing and/or inspections.

Let’s dissect them individually…

The Master fell overboard, well what can we say! It does happen but it shouldn’t as Master’s in general should not put themselves is a situation where they can fall overboard and potentially leave the vessel without anyone at the helm.

While engine failure can occur in many instances it can be prevented by regular servicing/maintenance and undertaking detailed pre-departure checks to identify any potential issues.

Dragging anchors usually don’t happen if the anchor is set properly with the appropriate scope but an anchor watch watchkeeper should be on duty!

Collisions during towing operations are sometimes unavoidable due to wind and/or tidal/sea  conditions but in most cases are avoidable. Often vessel speed v prevailing conditions is the culprit or in others in can be inexperience.

A vessel underway colliding with one at anchor just should not happen at all. There are multiple faults on both parts which could have prevented this happening. What was the watchkeeper on the vessel underway doing…most likely asleep because the anchored vessel would have been visible for some distance allowing them to alter course and avoid the collision. Oh…what about the watch alarm! We believe the primary onus in this incident is on the vessel underway as any radio calls to the other vessel may or may not have been heard.

Reporting incidents is an AMSA requirement and in all of the cases here were reported to AMSA but often there are collisions, and other incidents that go unreported!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We have 5 strong recommendations in relation to collisions and these are:

  1. To minimise the potential for engine failure, ensure your servicing and maintenance is up-to-date at all times and undertake detailed pre-departure checks to identify any potential issue that can be dealt with BEFORE you depart. Don’t just think “it’ll be right mate, we’ll fix that when we get time”!
  2. When undertaking towing operations ensure your hitch is secure but easily and quickly releasable by using a tugman’s hitch AND tow at a speed relevant to the prevailing conditions.
  3. When anchoring ensure you have enough scope out. It’s better to have more chain/line out to prevent dragging but always ensure you SET the anchor properly and make sure it is holding.
  4. When underway ALWAYS ensure the watchkeeper is competent AND rested enough to undertake the watch and set the watch alarm to ensure they remain awake. A sleeping watchkeeper when underway is an incident waiting to happen!
  5. When at anchor have an anchor watchkeeper and again use the watch alarm. Setting the radar proximity or zone entry alarm is also a valuable asset when at anchor.


Our tip is when setting the watch alarm, you do have one don’t you, set it to a short time period then lock it then remove the key to prevent it from being turned off.

Also, if you hear a watch alarm and it’s not shut off then get up to see what’s happening, it may well prevent an accident or the watchkeeper may be having a medical issue.

The big one is to ensure any person undertaking a navigational watch has the appropriate ticket or is under either direct supervision if not ticketed or general supervision if they hold a General Purpose Hand (GPH) certificate.

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