What's with Container ships and docking?

Absolutely Sir !!!

I will second that! The couch is a great viewpoint when watching some poor wretch having a bad day.
I was advised that manoeuvring speed was exactly what it said and the threshold was adjusted the closer you were to large immovable objects.
My mentors hated correspondence.

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I’ll take your word for the statistics on docking accidents. Having docked all kinds of ships for 30 years there are two standout causes for dock banging (not counting weather and current). One is inadequate tug help. A 900 hp bow thruster is not the same as a 4500 hp tug when maneuvering a ship that is 1000’ long. 900 hp won’t even lift the bow off the dock in a 10 knot breeze. You would think that would be obvious, but we used to get a lot of pushback from the container companies because they were overly proud of their piss ant thrusters. The captains would beg me not to require a tug because they would get in trouble with their company executives. If it was totally calm I’d say ok, take in the lines, put the bow thruster full away from the dock, go get a cup of coffee, fill out my log, check in with traffic control, get the life story of the quartermaster, then go out and see how things were going. Looks like these guys saved a couple thou on tugs but blew the shipyard budget out the window.

We don’t know why the anchors weren’t dropped in this case. Captain and pilot probably asked but the mate likely denies it. If I were the accident investigator I’d ask if they sounded the danger signal and if the whistle was on the foremast.


As much as my pride to dock unassisted, my later years I didn’t give a fuck what the extra cost was… If it’s dicey, get some help. It is your license, not the bean counters who will ask you about the latest fuck up. No Christmas cards sent or delivered.

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A feeder box ship may dock at a number of ports in a day. I did a brief look for her particulars but I would say her bow thruster would be adequate up to 20 knots. The master would normally hold a pilotage exemption for the ports that the vessel called at. A vessel of this type that I was master with a crew of 9 had a Becker rudder and was very manoeuvrable and I rarely required a tug but I had no hesitation in ordering one in adverse conditions. In one port where conditions were bad I doubled up the lines and stayed alongside. Telephone calls telling me to sail ceased when I asked for the demands to be put in writing. The little prick in the office was poured back into his bottle by the manager after my phone call.


With regards to bow thrusters and tugs.

On a 200 meter car ship it depended upon who was paying the bill but I almost always got the number of tugs requested.

If I am familiar with the port I’ll ask for what I think I need. In a unfamiliar port or if I’m not sure I’ll tell the agent to order tugs as per “pilot’s advice”.

It’s very common to use two tugs for mooring and one for unmooring.

If an extra tug is not needed better not to use one, or at least just have it standby without taking a line. There is some risk to the crew making up and letting go the tug and having the line up on deck under strain.

As far unmooring and wind speeds, depends on the direction of course but with the wind directly on the beam and a single tug aft the 2000 hp bowthruster two tugs for sure in 18 kts of wind or greater.

Also we have to keep in mind the thurster, according to the specs, it can only run at full thrust for 20 minutes before it trips out on high temp.

I had a situation on my hands when I refused to sail with an engine needing repairs. The office dweeb kept pushing me until I handed him the log and told him to enter and sign a statement accepting full responsibility for any resulting damage. Funny how quickly some people can change their minds.

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When I was Chief on a ferry in Dover UK a Technical Manager instructed me to sail with what I thought was an unsafe engine. When asked to put the instruction in writing he walked off the ship with no comment, apart from raised eyebrows!

I used the “put it in writing/put it in the logbook” tactic on a number of occasions. Only once was my bluff called… by a young Russian captain who swore he would get fired if he used a tug for undocking. It was a medium size ship and had no bow thruster or special rudder. I told him that getting the ship off the dock wasn’t the problem. We were pointed in the wrong direction and going outbound involved turning around in a very small basin (technically a “turning point”) that he couldn’t see from where we were moored. He took a deep breath and told me he would do it anyway. So I modified my request and put in the logbook that the pilot very strongly recommended a tug, but the company refused the service. Then I turned her using anchors. I figured my ass was covered if something happened and my chances of an accident were less than his. I admired his pluck, he was clearly nervous about it, but determined to keep his job so I did my best to put the company on the hook in case of a problem instead of him.

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One more container ship take out crane.
This time in Valencia: