Collision Avoidance at Sea

With regards to maneuvering for a safe passage in restricted waters the most common error I"ve observed in less experienced mates is a course change sufficient to give the minimum required CPA by ARPA but not sufficient to be apparent visually to the other vessel.

In open waters with lots of room it’s a different matter.

In general sailing foreign it’s rare to use the VHF but in the fairways I’ve had to call a couple time. I never understood why it was called Malfunction Junction until one day I did.

The other place its the Big H off Shanghai. I got called there one time coming left off the crossbar of the H onto the right hand leg.

How is that in compliance with COLREGS?

  • (i) Where one of two vessels is to keep out of the way the other shall keep her course and speed.

And "right of way? Is that even in the Int COLRGES now?

My reference was regarding my naval experience in the RAN. We would keep well clear of other ships when we were able to especially when exercising. There was never any risk of collision and so there’s no stand on vessels etc and no need to quote any rules. We just stayed away. Are you suggesting that we can’t alter course or speed whenever another ship appears on the horizon or just being pedantic?

Or you could consider the following:

Rule 2


(a). Nothing in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case.

(b). In construing and complying with these Rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.

Not every warship is any sort of special circumstance but you understand warships do strange things and don’t just sail in straight lines, they fire guns, they drop bombs, they play with submarines, they fly aircraft, replenish at sea, just play ship handling for the junior officers for hours on end, flash lights, manoeuver for the heck of it, stop and have a swim or just go fishing … who knows what? You also understand groups of warships might be connected in formations. They are almost never not involved in training.

You understand these things, but you expect we’ll just stand on when we could have stayed right away? Silly?

Nope, but you and everyone here (and everywhere) knows what it means because it’s in common usage.

Here lies the body of William Bray
He was killed maintaining his right of way,
He was right, dead right, as the day is long,
But he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.

Perhaps there was a special circumstance.

I hadn’t heard the audio from the Porter collision that was posted in the other thread. I listened to it last night and had a thought (while shaking my head).

There was also some talk in the other thread of adjusting the EOT in order to fix a traffic situation. In that 4 minute audio file, the Porter went from faster than 5 knots (I’m not sure what bell they were on), down to 5 knots to “fix” the situation, and then within a minute ordered flank speed.

I know these things are maneuverable, but it strikes me as a pilot who gives too many rudder commands in a very short period of time with a slow rudder - port 10, port 20, midship, starboard 20, midship - the rudder has just gotten to port 20 and the rest of the commands are sort of void, and the rudder just goes midship again. Going from ahead full to ahead 1/3 to ahead flank in such short order - has the engine even slowed down yet? Or did it speed up before they were hit? Even if the engine followed the telegraph, does that thing scrub and pick up speed that quickly? It’s not like the Porter has the same characteristics as a 20’ Boston Whaler.

I never had to use the engine to get myself out of a situation. I knew it was available to me if I needed, but most traffic out there isn’t executing these large speed changes. You’re doing 14 knots, the other guy is doing 12.5, you plan accordingly. Now then the gray thing that is doing his 20 knots and you see and plan, then all of a sudden he just stops, or goes down to 4 knots, or does a 90 degree course change…now what? You were the stand on vessel, now all of a sudden you’re the give way vessel…

The most times I’ve ever had to call the Captain surrounded around Malfunction. Mostly just as a heads up that something fucked up was about to happen, but we were going to be fine. One time the guy 2 ships in front of us rounded the bend outbound and put out a security call that he had just lost his steering. Sometimes he would come up, sometimes not, but there’s a reason some Captains don’t go to bed until they are past Malfunction, and other people go the other way out of Houston.

I don’t know what it means. According to Wikipeidia it’s a common misperception.

A commonly held misconception concerning the rules of marine navigation is that by following specific rules, a vessel can gain certain rights of way over other vessels.[21] No vessel ever has “right of way” over other vessels. Rather, there can be a “give way” vessel and a “stand on” vessel, or there may be two give way vessels with no stand on vessel. A stand on vessel does not have any right of way over any give way vessel, and is not free to maneuver however it wishes, but is obliged to keep a constant course and speed (so as to help the give way vessel in determining a safe course). So standing on is an obligation, not a right, and is not a privilege. Furthermore, a stand on vessel may still be obliged (under Rule 2 and Rule 17) to give way itself, in particular when a situation has arisen where a collision can no longer be avoided by actions of the give way vessel alone.[22][23] For example, two power-driven vessels approaching each other head-to-head, are both deemed to be “give way” and both are required to alter course so as to avoid colliding with the other. Neither vessel has “right of way”.[24]


Mmmmmmmm … riiiiiight. Pedantics again.

And then to go on and quote that unimpeachable source of maritime law, Wiki whatsit as your reference? Really? I bet you’ve used that useful reference before.

Can you not engage me on the substance of my comments and stop the dancing around?

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My normal run for a few years was Houston to USAC - We routinely cut the corner at “malfunction junction” if it looked like it was getting crowded. We were on a 20 day round trip, and were pretty confident that our track outside the fairway was clear of well heads, etc.

Which leads to something i alluded to on the other thread. One of the good things about ships is they go slow, and radar allows you to asses situations that will arise in an hour or so. Always thought that was when " collision avoidance" should start. Avoid getting in the soup if you can.

Another routine one was the fla fishing fleet. You could see the mass of contacts 15 or 20 miles away on your track line. Often my call to the Captain would be " do you want to get up in an hour and weave our way through, or do you want me to “go to sea”. Meaning leave our track line leave them well inshore of us and you can go back to sleep.


I would say right-of-way is a layman’s term for stand-on vessel.


I feel bad for the students you have dominion over on this sail training vessel you talk about. You strike me as a Captain who cannot accept discussion about anything that does not fit your perceived mastery of a subject. It must be terribly difficult to work with you

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Eek! I never liked going out of the fairways…because god forbid you hit something, there really isn’t any defense!

I think that applies to my critics here. I’ve stated my experience and my opinion and so do others. What’s your problem? Where have I not discussed something? Anything? Examples please? Anything recent? C’mon, walk the talk.

Yes. Concur. I use layman’s language sometimes because it’s widely understood and briefer and easier to say.

Imagine having to call him for a traffic situation.

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Understand - an amazing amount of power in those little magenta lines.

Why? What would you expect I would do, or not do? Where’s your evidence?

I would expect you to be a dick about it.

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And you would be wrong. Read back to what I’ve written on that very subject over the last few days. Missed those, did you? So you use the highly intellectual method of personal abuse. Sorry, no toffee apple for you, naughty boy.

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Malfunction Junction how marvellously apt. I was unaware of the label but just got on with it. The approaches to Shanghai is an area that caused me as master to instantly available if not on the bridge already.

It isn’t if there is “risk of collision”. However, if, according to Rule 7, there is “no risk of collision”, the maneuver could be executed without violation of 179(a)(i)!

That’s not my take on it. The Jughead appears to have a lot of experience. Before I retired, after 23 years as a Deck O, and having sailed as Master AGT Oceans, I probably have more experience than any new3m in the fleet in dealing with traffic. . . and I expected any new 3m in the fleet to shut the fk up and listen - AFTER the decision has been made. It was ok to lobby their position BEFORE, and I expected that and encouraged their thoughts to resolve the matter.

I always encouraged my mates to call me, whether it was for counseling, or hand-holding. But I also REQUIRED them to have a plan - I wasn’t coming to perform a “rescue”! I was coming to assist them. Some of them didn’t like that. They wanted a rescue.

However, I never chastised them for calling me. In my standing orders were the words: “If are in doubt, call me. If you don’t know if you’re in doubt, you’re in doubt - call me. And lastly, call me in sufficient time to resolve the problem - I don’t want to ONLY be a witness to a maritime incident”!

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