Have you seen the AIS and audio of the accident? If not, click here for it.
Removing all the drama, one may probably safely assume that it was the failure of the “Mel Oliver” to give way to the vessel crossing her starboard bow, as Rule 15 dictates:
[I][B]RULE 15 - CROSSING SITUATIONS[/B] When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.
(b)Notwithstanding paragraph (a), on the Great Lakes, Western Rivers, or water specified by the Secretary, a power-driven vessel crossing a river shall keep out of the way of a power-driven vessel ascending or descending the river.
[/I]But wait, is that all? I doubt it. How about Rule 5? Do you think there was a proper lookout on the tug?
[I][B]Rule 5[/B] - Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.
[/I]As long as we’re at it: Rule 6, perhaps?
[I][B]RULE 6 SAFE SPEED[/B] - Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.
In determining a safe speed the following factors shall be among those taken into account:
(a)By all vessels:
- The state of visibility;
- The traffic density including concentrations of fishing vessels or any other vessels;
- The manageability of the vessel with special reference to stopping distance and turning ability in the prevailing conditions;
- At night, the presence of background light such as from shore lights or from back scatter from her own lights;
- The state of wind, sea and current, and the proximity of navigational hazards;
- The draft in relation to the available depth of water.
(b)Additionally, by vessels with operational radar:
- The characteristics, efficiency and limitations of the radar equipment;
- Any constraints imposed by the radar range scale in use;
- The effect on radar detection of the sea state, weather and other sources of interference;
- The possibility that small vessels, ice and other floating objects may not be detected by radar at an adequate range;
- The number, location and movement of vessels detected by radar;
- The more exact assessment of the visibility that may be possible when radar is used to determine the range of vessels or other objects in the vicinity.[/I]
And don’t forget Rule 7:
[I][B]RULE 7 RISK OF COLLISION[/B] - (a)Every vessel shall use all available means appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions to determine if risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt such risk shall be deemed to exist.
(b)Proper use shall be made of radar equipment if fitted and operational, including long-range scanning to obtain early warning of risk of collision and radar plotting or equivalent systematic observation of detected objects.
©Assumptions shall not be made on the basis of scanty information, especially scanty radar information.
(d)In determining if risk of collision exists the following considerations shall be among those taken into account:
- Such risk shall be deemed to exist if the compass bearing of an approaching vessel does not appreciably change.
- Such risk may sometimes exist even when an appreciable bearing change is evident, particularly when approaching a very large vessel or a tow or when approaching a vessel at close range.
[I][B]RULE 8 ACTION TO AVOID COLLISION[/B] - (a)Any action taken to avoid collision shall be taken in accordance with the Rules of this Part and [Intl] shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, be positive, made in ample time and with due regard to the observance of good seamanship.
(b)Any alteration of course and/or speed to avoid collision shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, be large enough to be readily apparent to another vessel observing visually or by radar; a succession of small alterations of course and/or speed should be avoided.
©If there is sufficient sea room, alteration of course alone may be the most effective action to avoid a close-quarters situation provided that it is made in good time, is substantial and does not result in another close-quarters situation.
(d)Action taken to avoid collision with another vessel shall be such as to result in passing at a safe distance. The effectiveness of the action shall be carefully checked until the other vessel is finally past and clear.
(e)If necessary to avoid collision or allow more time to asses the situation, a vessel may slacken her speed or take all way off by stopping or reversing her means of propulsion.
- A vessel which, by any of these rules, is required not to impede the passage or safe passage of another vessel shall, when required by the circumstances of the case, take early action to allow sufficient sea room for the safe passage of the other vessel.
- A vessel required not to impede the passage or safe passage of another vessel is not relieved of this obligation if approaching the other vessel so as to involve risk of collision and shall, when taking action, have full regard to the action which may be required by the rules of this part.
- A vessel, the passage of which is not to be impeded remains fully obliged to comply with the rules of this part when the two vessels are approaching one another so as to involve risk of collision.[/I]
[I][B]Rule 16[/B] Every vessel which is directed to keep out of the way of another vessel shall, so far as possible, take early and substantial action to keep well clear.[/I]
Rule 17? Do you think the pilot on the tanker followed this rule?
- Where one of two vessels is to keep out of the way, the other shall keep her course and speed.
- The latter vessel may however take action to avoid collision by her maneuver alone, as soon as it becomes apparent to her that the vessel required to keep out of the way is not taking appropriate action in compliance with these Rules.
(b)When, from any cause, the vessel required to keep her course and speed finds herself so close that collision cannot be avoided by the action of the give-way vessel alone, she shall take such action as will best aid to avoid collision.
©A power-driven vessel which takes action in a crossing situation in accordance with subparagraph (a)(ii) of this Rule to avoid collision with another power-driven vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, not alter course to port for a vessel on her own port side.
(d)This Rule does not relieve the give-way vessel of her obligation to keep out of the way.
[/I]And let’s never forget good ol’ Rule 2:
[I][B]RULE 2 RESPONSIBILITY[/B]
(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.
[/I]And finally, the Bridge to Bridge Radiotelephone Regulations. Never a peep from the “Mel Oliver”.
So, what caused the accident?