Timed Arrivals with a low-speed diesel

It’s not really about safety, it’s a little more complicated. There’s a saying “never be late when you’re early”.

Say the pilot time is 0515hrs.
The arrival plan might have waypoints 1-4, the plan might be:
leg 1-2 18 kts
leg 2-3 14 kts
leg 3-4 12 kts

So ship has to be at waypoint #1 at the correct time. If the ship arrives at waypoint #1 about 45 minutes early the speed can be dropped to 16 kts or a round turn made to add a little time.

To be conservative the captain can create a waypoint #0 as a time check to make sure the arrival is on time. If the second mate calls at wp#0 and reports the ship is running 20 minutes late there’s still 25 minutes or more time up the sleeve.

But you know the 2nd mate can’t be trusted.

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Pretty basic stuff. If a mate can’t follow the logic, you have a problem.

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Yes, the plan ties into the night orders.

Mates do sometimes make an honest mistake, in which case a letter of warning might not be warranted. But if the 2nd mate has already proven not to be reliable then it might be time for a letter.

This stuff can seriously cut into the captain’s rest/work hours if the second mate can’t be relied upon to do this on their own.

I typically set the ETA for the pilot station twenty to thirty minutes earlier than the required time to pilot with clear instructions to the mates that they use the actual pilot time when checking in with VTS and pilots. This typically gives me adequate wiggle room for a slowdown and stern test. I try to be as clear as possible with what I need in the night orders and then rely upon the mates to adjust as necessary or call me if needed. It’s worked well for me throughout the years.


Same here. But approach to Uraga Pilot Station (Tokyo Bay) during morning rush hour is in restricted waters with heavy traffic. The average speed of the ship traffic is around 12 or 14 kts. Safer to slow down early rather then weave through traffic at sea speed.

This is 22:30hrs - not too busy.

The pilot boats don’t run out to board the pilots. There are two large tugs waiting at the pilot station with a supply of pilots. There’s typically two lines of ships taking pilots, each tug is doing a pilot boarding every 5 minutes. Boarding speed is 8 kts but the approach is 12 kts so ships are spaced about every 1 mile.

-Also, when you set your own ETA to the pilot station that’d’ be “pilot on arrival”. A timed arrival is when your ETA is say, 0400 and the instructions are to adjust your speed for a "timed arrival - in the example 0515hr.

Don’t want to be late when you’re early.

This is the kind of scenario that should be discussed the day before with the night orders serving to document the planing when approaching very busy pilot boarding areas.
Slowing from a sea speed of 24 knots over 65 minutes under ECR computer control down to manoeuvring full ahead of 16 knots I normally left this to the mate on watch to look after, and it was allowed for in my ETA.
I would always be on the bridge well before further reductions in speed were required when joining a queue of ships picking up their pilots but I wouldn’t necessarily take the conn and if it was the CM I would let him get on with it and enjoy my coffee.

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That does indeed sound like quite the challenging maneuver. I would likely be planted on the bridge for the entirety of that. Choke points and arrivals. I’m drinking coffee on the bridge and running scenarios in my head. I think a lot of us are the same. .

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It is difficult isn’t it .
Slowing down and arriving At a pilot station 30 minutes early.
When the Pilot embarks he then has to disengage the mess of your 30 minutes early arrival or my worst case scenario 1.5 hours late on a late in the tide planned passage.
So that meant going to max sea speed for the first 2.5 hours of the passage inwards then slowing down to pass other berths but still making the rug time within 5 minutes as there were many other manoeuvres scheduled for that tide. And of course berthing safely.
But you never noticed this as it’s all in a days work for a Pilot in a busy tidal port.
All you saw was a ship arriving at a port and picking up it’s tugs at the time we said you would and berthing at the time we said you would.
Maybe going to 10 minutes notice on the inward passage as you thought we could knock off early for an earlier berthing.
When in reality you had a time slot to make or you were blown out and that was a ball ache because someone then has to take you back out to the pilot station and we have to re schedule you all over again.
Another day another dollar or in my case pound :face_with_peeking_eye:

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Sounds like doing simple math is hard for some folks. Thankfully, the same brains aren’t calculating if we are going to run out of fuel or not.

Literally, an Iphone can give instantly updated ETA.

ETA’s with a reliable vessel and crew are not that difficult. Traffic,weather,and tides may come into play, but most plan for that.

Wait, you have an iPhone that will calculate your ETA with a 45 minute run down to maneuver speed against a gradually increasing tidal current while accounting for the developing traffic situation? Impressive.

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Careful. I’ve seen plenty of 2 A/E fuck up the bunker soundings continuously.


Not about calculating an ETA, it’s a “timed arrival”. Have to be at the Pilot station at an assigned time. Low-speed diesel can only adjust the RPM with an unmanned engine room within limits.

If the ship is too early some captains have the mate make a 180 and go back along the track for the required time (including the time to make the turns) then another 180.

Never be late when you’re early.

Truth! In fact, they more than likely are fucked than they are good. But one nice thing about tanker-trash life is the 2ae can usually snag one of them fancy beeping things to sound.

Only in shipping do we pay millions of $ for a load of fuel, measure it with a fucking tape measure, and bitch when we get shorted…because the company is too cheap to buy a few thousand dollar fuel meter to put on the manifold LOL.

True story. I was on a ship once where we got EXTRA fuel.

Maybe your slow speed. Welcome to the 2000’s, where ya’ll can just send it.

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And you do the differential equations in your head to find the solution?

And yet every American ship always says they’re 20 or 40 tons short no matter how much they get, lol. Hmmmmm.

About 50 tons less than what they really have? Every time…?


Once the traffic patterns are understood it’s not bad. By the time the traffic start merging all the ships are well behaved so presumably the captains are on the bridge at that point. Some crossing traffic but give-way ships give way and stand-on vessels stand on.

Tokyo vessel traffic (Tokyo MARTIS) is paying close attention as well.

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50 tons! Man you are old. The Chief would be sounding himself if we used 50 tons a day :joy: