Oct 152012

Graph depicting number of groundings prior to, and after, the introduction of REEFVTS.

Australia’s Maritime Safety Authority, AMSA, has issued a new video on the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Vesel Traffic Service, REEFVTS,  available for viewing on the AMSA website. Several high-profile groundings have led to installation of VTS and new procedures for the environmentally-critical area.

Located in Townsville, REEFVTS is a joint initiative of Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) and AMSA. It is one of the largest coastal vessel traffic services in the world, monitoring from Cape York to Sandy Cape.

The Great Barrier Reef is recognised all over the world for both its stunning beauty and its environmental diversity. That’s why the International Maritime Organization declared the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait particularly sensitive sea areas. This means extra care needs to be taken to safeguard the reef from the potential impacts of shipping. Continue reading »

Maersk Kendal – Complacency, BTM, Culture And VDRs

 Accident report, containership, grounding, maritime safety  Comments Off on Maersk Kendal – Complacency, BTM, Culture And VDRs
Mar 212010

Reef - 1, Maersk Kendal - 0, teaamwork might have been the answer

MAIB’s report on the grounding of the containership Maersk Kendal on the Monggok Sebarok reef in the Singapore Strait on 16 September 2009 presents some all-too familiar problems and a package of lessons to learn. Complacency, lack of voyage planning, failure of bridge teamwork and inadequate awareness of the information being provided by the Singapore Vessel Traffic information service, were contributory factors.

Two items in the report in particular caught MAC’s attention. The first is the role of cultural factors in the bridge team which were also covered in the report on the grounding of chemical tanker Maria M. In that case a abrasive and abusive Italian master resulted in a bridge team that was afraid to challenge, question or advise him. On Maersk Kendall the situation between the British master and an Indian chief officer was very different, they appeared to be on good terms and the master’s standing orders required the bridge team to question the master if in any doubt concerning his actions yet it still didn’t happen.

Continue reading »

Kneejerk Legislation and Cosco Busan bandwagonning

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Kneejerk Legislation and Cosco Busan bandwagonning
Apr 182008

Dennis Bryant at Holland & Knight clearly shares our exasperation at bandwagonning politicians climbing aboard the Cosco Busan. Commenting on a bill introduced by that global maritime expert Senator Feinstein, he says ‘The bill provides, among other things, that during a condition of enhanced danger (which includes dangerously low visibility, whatever that is) the USCG Sector Commander “shall assume direct authority over all vessels within the area . . . to ensure the safe navigation of dangerous waterways.”This is a truly misguided approach that will result in more problems than it expects to solve. ‘

What one wonders is whether that sector commander will be subject to criminal charges, face imprisonment and lose his career should an incident occur on his watch? Will he face the same legal risks as the pilot and ship officers aboard the Cosco Busan. Will the Coast Guard be fined millions of dollars for any pollution that occurs as a result? After all, if he, or she, is to assume direct authority over a vessel then he or she should be liable, as should the Coast Guard, so it’s little surprise that the Coast Guard itself really doesn’t want that particular hot potato.

In fact, there was little the VTS could have done at the time of the Cosco Busan incident. Its obsolete equipment had a time-lag between a ship making a manouvre and that manouvre being seen on the VTS screen, The equipment was obsolete because politicians had voted down funds for its upgrading.

Even modern equipment is not ‘real time’, there is always a lag which can be significant when dealing with fast-moving vessels.

VTS is not air traffic control. Every craft in the air is subject to air traffic control but the waters are filled with small vessels with little or no radar signature, without AIS, without radios, which can, and do interfere with safe navigation but will not be seen by the VTS.

Dangerous situations can arise without warning. At that moment, those on the bridge must remain focussed and undistracted, which they can’t be if they required to take orders from someone who isn’t on the bridge and doesn’t know the immediate situation. What will ensure will be a negotiation that will interfere with the bridge team’s situational awareness, particularly if the Coast Guard officer behaves with the typical abrasiveness of the breed.

One must, however, beware of the same sort of knee-jerk reaction that is influencing Feinstein’s bid for maritime glory. One must question whether direct VTS control is necessary or advisable in waters with mandatory pilotage, otherwise, why have a pilot anyway? Again, the issue of liability has to be settled.

There may well be an argument for greater VTS control, particularly in areas of high traffic density, and given the decreasing experience of many ship’s officers today, but ill thought-out legislation isn’t the way to go.