Real Life Accident: Poor Master/Pilot Exchange Gives Poor Results

An inbound vessel in a tidal river was boarded by two pilots. The Master/Pilot exchange took place between the Master and the pilot who was to control the vessel. The pilot explained his port pilotage plan and the intended use of two tugs to assist the vessel to berth. The pilot asked the Master about the vessel’s manoeuvring characteristics and was informed that the bow went to starboard when going astern, but was not told that the vessel had a cotrollable pitch propellor drive (CPP). He then countersigned the vessel’s pilot card.

At that point the Master left the bridge, leaving the pilots with the OOW. After about four hours pilotage, tugs were ordered in preparation for berthing. The vessel was approaching a starboard turn in the river, with a flood current astern, when the pilot ordered the helm to starboard 15°. Within 30 seconds the vessel’s rate of turn was 25°/min to starboard. Soon afterward, as the vessel was rounding the turn the pilot ordered the engine stopped (point C in diagram below); for just over 30 seconds the engine was at stop before dead slow ahead was ordered.


However, the vessel’s head was still swinging rapidly to starboard. The pilot ordered full ahead, hard to port (point D) and requested one of the tugs to assist. The vessel was about 100m from the shore when its bow began to turn to port. The Master had just returned to the bridge and he repeated the order of full ahead, hard-to-port. Shortly thereafter the pilot ordered full astern, but the vessel’s starboard bow made contact with the quay nonetheless at a SOG of 6.0 knots.


Lessons learned

  • The pilot was unaware that the vessel was equipped with a controllable pitch propeller (CPP) drive.
  • Although indicated on the pilot card, the reference to CPP was not easy to find on the form. The format of the card was poor in comparison with the layout considered best practice, such as that outlined in the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Bridge Procedures Guide.
  • When a vessel fitted with a CPP is moving ahead and the pitch is set to zero, the flow of water through the propeller and across the rudder is interrupted and steerage will be adversely affected.

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