Canadian safety board: Improper use of radio phones could raise collision risk

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The following is the text of a news release from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada:

(QUEBEC CITY) (Dec. 2) — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its investigation report (M12L0098) into an August 2012 risk of collision between the Bulk Japan and the Wilf Seymour in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec.

On August 6, at approximately 1305, Eastern Daylight Time, the officer of the watch onboard the Wilf Seymour detected the Bulk Japan roughly 12 nautical miles on his port side. At their current course and speed, the radar indicated they would pass within only 0.3 nautical miles of each other, placing the two vessels in danger of colliding.

Under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, the Wilf Seymour was the stand-on vessel. It had the right of way and was supposed to maintain its course and speed. As the give-away vessel, the Bulk Japan was required to alter its course or slow its speed, or both as required. Roughly 30 minutes after the officer of the watch on the Wilf Seymour detected the target on the radar, he used the radiotelephone to contact the officer of the watch on the Bulk Japan.

Following a series of radio calls that spanned 15 minutes, the Wilf Seymour was unable to determine how the Bulk Japan intended to proceed. With only 2.1 nautical miles separating the two vessels, it became apparent that the Bulk Japan would not take any action. The Wilf Seymour reversed engines to let the Bulk Japan cross ahead and avoid a risk of collision.

Internationally, radiotelephones are not routinely used to prevent collisions. The investigation found that prolonged use of radiotelephones may prevent the bridge crew from adequately monitoring developing situations and place vessels at increased risk of collision. This is especially true when bridge crews have different perceptions and are unable to agree on a course of action.

Click here to view the complete investigation report.

By Professional Mariner Staff