With the typhoon season getting well underway the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has issued anchoring guidelines to help masters avoid joining Pasha Bulker on the ‘Oops Roster’. They might also be useful to bear in mind when dropping the hook elsewhere in a storm.
The influence of the Pasha Bulker incident is apparent in the AMSA Marine Safety Notice. In addition to Pasha Bulker, several others vessels found themselves in trouble in the same storm in part because they had not taken on extra ballast to meet the weather conditions.
AMSA advises: “At all times ballast condition must be maintained so that the ship’s propeller is fully submerged and the vessel’s forward draught and trim are such that the requirements of the vessel’s stability book are maintained and forward slamming is prevented. In the event that deteriorating weather is forecast the Master must make a timely decision to take on heavy weather ballast before conditions become so extreme that ballasting becomes a risky operation.”
During the Pasha Bulker storm, several ships expected Newcastle Vessel Traffic Information Centre, VTIC, to instruct them whether or not to leave the anchor and get underway but the VTIC didn’t have that authority. Says AMSA “The Master must assess the wind and sea conditions and get the vessel underway whenever necessary. He should not wait for instructions from the harbour VTS or port authority, whether in a designated anchorage within port limits or not, if the Master considers the safety of the ship requires such action.”
Where port authorities do not designate an anchorage AMSA reminds masters to take into account “Ample swinging room to be left from charted dangers and other vessels… Good holding ground must be sought whenever possible. Recommendations may be found in Admiralty Sailing Directions and commercially available port guides….An adequate amount of cable, based on a
published well-tried formula and the Master’s experience of the vessel, is to be veered.”
In line with the requirements of STCW, AMSA says: “It is absolutely essential that routines are in place so that the ship’s position is regularly checked. Use of GPS, ECS systems, bearings and radar ranges is recommended. Prevailing weather, predicted weather, tidal streams, proximity of land and traffic congestion at the anchorage must be taken in to account when specifying the position checking routine.”
Keep an eye on the weather and be aware of how vessels at anchor may be affected by local conditions. Says AMSA: “For example intense depressions may form in the Tasman Sea which engender galeforce winds and heavy seas off the south-east coast ports. Ports on the Queensland and north-west coasts are subject to tropical cyclones (typhoons) of extreme violence.
“It is essential that the Master monitors current weather forecasts and warnings. Weather forecast
services are contained in the Admiralty List of Radio signals Vol 3 part 2. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology makes available coastal forecasts and warnings on their internet site: www.bom.gov.au.”
Because of the threast of sudden and unexpected extreme weather conditions, AMSA advises: “Ideally the main engines, steering gear, or windlass must not be dismantled or immobilised whilst at anchor as conditions may deteriorate at short notice. If defect rectification makes work on any of these machinery items essential, the situation should be advised to the harbour VTS for their information and on-forwarding to the relevant harbour master and/or port authority. Appropriate notice for sea will be required to mobilise machinery.”
Current AMSA notices can be downloaded here.