Safe Maneuvering in Restricted Waterways: Lessons from a Close Call

Safe Maneuvering in Restricted Waterways: Lessons from a Close Call

Navigating through restricted waterways can pose significant challenges for vessels, especially when faced with adverse weather conditions. A recent incident highlights the importance of proper planning and the potential risks associated with relying on a single tugboat for assistance.

In this particular case, a tanker in ballast was departing from a river port, requiring a 180° turn. With winds blowing from the south at 20-25 knots and a northerly current setting, the captain and pilot on board faced a challenging maneuver. Despite the unfavorable conditions, only one tugboat was available for assistance.

As the vessel began the turn to port, the tugboat was positioned at the starboard bow to provide additional support. However, despite the tug’s efforts, the vessel started drifting aft due to the combined effect of wind and current. With a speed over ground (SOG) of 2.4 knots, the vessel had turned approximately 60° to port when it came dangerously close to a dolphin on the starboard bow.

The tugboat, unable to control the vessel’s drift towards the dolphin, had to abandon its position to avoid being crushed. In a last-ditch effort, the main engine was set to full astern, but it was not enough to prevent the starboard bow from brushing against the mooring dolphin. Luckily, the vessel eventually completed the maneuver and proceeded to its destination, but not without sustaining damage to the hull.

This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of pre-planning and considering the forces acting on a vessel during a maneuver. In hindsight, relying on a single tugboat in such challenging conditions was a hazardous decision. The limited availability of tugs should not override the need for adequate assistance during critical maneuvers.

It is crucial for mariners to have a comprehensive understanding of the current and wind conditions, as well as the vessel’s capabilities in restricted waterways. By conducting a thorough risk assessment and having contingency plans in place, vessel operators can mitigate the potential dangers associated with challenging maneuvers.

As always, continuous learning and sharing of experiences are vital for improving safety in maritime operations. By embracing these lessons and prioritizing safe maneuvering practices, we can enhance the overall efficiency and security of vessels operating in restricted waterways.

FAQ Section:

Q: What is the main takeaway from the article?
A: The article highlights the importance of proper planning and the risks of relying on a single tugboat for assistance when navigating through restricted waterways.

Q: What challenges can vessels face when navigating through restricted waterways?
A: Vessels can face challenges such as adverse weather conditions, limited availability of tugboats for assistance, and the need for precise maneuvers in tight spaces.

Q: What happened in the incident mentioned in the article?
A: A tanker in ballast was attempting a 180° turn in a river port with strong winds and current. Despite having only one tugboat for assistance, the vessel started drifting and brushed against a mooring dolphin, resulting in damage to the hull.

Q: What factors contributed to the vessel’s difficulties during the maneuver?
A: The vessel faced challenges due to the combined effect of strong winds blowing from the south and a northerly current. With only one tugboat available, it was unable to control the vessel’s drift towards the dolphin.

Q: Why was relying on a single tugboat in challenging conditions a hazardous decision?
A: Relying on a single tugboat in challenging conditions was hazardous because it limited the ability to adequately control the vessel’s movements and avoid potential risks.

Key Terms:
– Ballast: Material (such as water) placed in a ship’s hold to provide stability.
– Tugboat: A boat used for towing or pushing other vessels.
– Dolphin: A structure used for mooring or guiding a vessel.

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