Rules-of-the-road dilemma

bobs
22nd February 2008, 00:42
Although I worked in the shipping industry, I was never a professional mariner but nearly all my colleagues had been. As a result of that, in the pub after work I was always seen as a bit of a sucker for sailors' yarns. My question is based on one of these.

So: you are OoW on a VLCC or ULCC. You are in mid-ocean when you see, dead ahead and coming straight towards you the US Navy Nth Fleet. They are steaming at high speed in three of four columns abreast, spread out over quite a distance.

Do you:
1) Alter course to starboard so as to leave them all to port, even though that might mean quite a deviation for your less-than-highly-manoeuvrable vessel?

or do you:

2) set a course between the columns of naval ships and give them a cheery wave (or wrong-way-round Churchillian salute) on either side as you pass?

or

3) since they are much more manoeuvrable than you, stand on and let the Navy sort themselves out and stay clear of you?

I know what my old colleague did (or at least in his yarn, says he did) but what would be the right way by the rules of the road?

Gavin Gait
22nd February 2008, 00:45
I would think ,and could be wrong , that as a VLCC/ULCC would have restricted ability to maneuver due to the shear size of them that the Navy ships would have to get out of the way

K urgess
22nd February 2008, 00:47
Ah but the US Navy give way to no-one.
You've seen the advert I suppose.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bkt_jXHm6u0

Derbyroy
22nd February 2008, 01:17
HaHa this smacks of the old US navy Verus the Lighthouse ...gag.
Merchant vessels are by all international laws entitled to free and unrestricted acess to international waters...regardless of their size or tonnage,
therefore the US fleet being a nation powers war machine would /should be required to avoid the conflict..(the Italians always did) avoid the war that is ...

John Briggs
22nd February 2008, 02:51
This has got to be a trick/joke question. There is no problem as far as the ROR is concerned, very straitforward.

Derbyroy
22nd February 2008, 03:05
ROR..should not come into this ,
The merchant vessel, should have precedence
the U>S> Fleet is performing unusual operations effecting the navigation of
the merchant vessel, under normal operating conditions.

Derbyroy
22nd February 2008, 03:17
Hi JB
Yep your right,..as long as all ships masters,can remember the rules of the road, over the last 20 years therer has been 40 plus colisionns in the Channel
caused or \admitted to by British .seaman

Hawkeye
22nd February 2008, 05:07
I presume the US Ships were not RASing? If so, who has the right of way then?

Orbitaman
22nd February 2008, 07:18
There is no distinction between naval and merchant ships in the rules.

Rule 1 (a) These rules shall apply to all vessels upon the high seas and in all waters connected therewith navigable by seagoing vessels.

The action to take in a head-on situation is not ambiguous.

Rule 14 Head-on Situation

(a) When two power-driven vessels are meeting on reciprocal or nearly reciprocal courses so as to involve risk of collision each shall alter her course to starboard so that each shall pass on the port side of the other.
(b) Such a situation shall be deemed to exist when a vessel sees the other ahead or nearly ahead and by night she could see the masthead lights in line or nearly in line and/or both sidelights and by day she observes the corresponding aspect of the other vessel.
(c) When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether such a situation exists she shall assume that it does exist and act accordingly.

Chris Isaac
22nd February 2008, 07:24
Call the next watch, ring 8 bells and go below!

Santos
22nd February 2008, 09:36
Stand on and be dammed (Jester) - Stand on but be aware of ROR and adjust your course or not depending on the situation. I certainly would not give them any preference at all.

Chris.

Pat McCardle
22nd February 2008, 10:44
Hoist 2 black balls & plead ignorance?

jaydeeare
22nd February 2008, 12:14
Take the same action as driving in Malta - the right of way is governed (or appears to be governed) by the who is the biggest, fastest or the one who blows his horn first!

JimC
22nd February 2008, 13:08
Opening statement of Rs.O.R. (as earlier pointed out say it all). However it also says " Nothing within these rules etc etc." (don't know what 'etc.,etc. means!).
Being even more silly: How far apart are the columns of ships?
What is the closing speed?
What are the names of the commanders of the lead
vessels in each column?
Is the master of the VLCC a Geordie?
Is the coffee fresh in the chartroom?
These important questions and many others need to be adressed before a meeting of the bridge Management team can be called to carry out a risk assessment. Meetings of this team cannot be called before smoke-oh on the first morning before such an encounter may or may not occur. It is also important to warn the cook that fresh tab-nabs will be needed at the time and that two of these must contain coconut (the old man's favourite).
Following the said meeting at which the junior cadet will impress everyone with his or her new-found nautical knowledge; a message will be sent (in code) to the owners asking them what the hell to do!
If in doubt; refer to section 4A, subsection 111(1) of L.R.IV.I.P.S.- G.A. (Latest Regulations Issued by a Very Important Person in a very Important Section of one or other Government Agency). This is entitled: "What to do in the event of not knowing what to do".
I hope the foregoing turns-out to be the correct answer. However, if not, you can let me have the proper one by sending a reply to www.notreallyacrazybugger.co.org.com.uk.world

John Rogers
22nd February 2008, 13:50
Have you notice Bob never came back to read the answer. Ring the bell and run like hell.
John.

bobs
22nd February 2008, 14:06
Some answers to questions posed in your very interesting comments:

Speed of the naval ships/closing speed: very fast;

Were they RASing: no;

Ethnicity of VLCC master: unknown but the OoW was a Jock;

Freshness of chartroom coffee: unknown;

Names of the Yank commanders: undefined but take your pick from Bud, Buck, Chuck, Dwight, Elmer, Frank and Hank and you've probably got a couple of them!

How far apart were the columns: presumably several hundred yards;

Is Jim C really a notreallyacrazybugger: not really

bobs
22nd February 2008, 14:10
John,
Sorry I took so long. I was avin me dinner. Or, if you mean the final answer, I know what happened in the incident to which I refer but am hoping to find out what the right action should have been. I didn't ring the bell and run. I rang it right enough but am waiting to see the reaction and find out if my yarn-spinner did the right thing. All will be revealed in the fullness of time. Let's have a bit of fun first.
Bob

non descript
22nd February 2008, 14:30
Bobs,
You ask a reasonable question (about Jim) and to my mind, no it is not possible to not know if the there is no real answer to knowing if it is a no or a yes….. I think much the same may also be the clue to your original query as well…..
(Jester)

bobs
22nd February 2008, 14:36
Tonga,
As a blind man once said, I see it all now, Only problem is I dont know what I am looking at but I certainly see a lot of it - whatever it is - or not -perhaps.
Bob Scott

Pat Thompson
22nd February 2008, 15:15
Greetings,

In these circumstances all you need is "Peril Sensitive Glasses". A bit like light sensitive sunglasses the difference being when it all gets too much they just black out and you can't see a thing.

Aye

Pat Thompson

P.S.
Apologies to Douglas Adams of, "The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy", fame. They were actually his brainchild

You can't get enough photos of "O'Boats"

John Rogers
22nd February 2008, 15:28
I say darn the torpedoes!!full steam ahead Hardy.

John.

bobs
22nd February 2008, 15:40
John,
With regards to what actually happened in the real-life incident upon which the probably-much-embellished yarn that gave rise to my question is based, you are getting warmer.
Bob Scott

LEEJ
22nd February 2008, 17:25
Get on the VHF with a funny voice and say you re going to blow them all up with a couple of Allah Akbars! for good measure and see what happens.

bobs
22nd February 2008, 17:54
There apparently was a (quite heated) communication on the VHF with the Grey Funnel boys clearly under the impression that Uncle Sam ruled the waves.

LEEJ
22nd February 2008, 18:46
A friend of mine was OOW on cruise ship in the Carribean in a similar scenario. He refused to alter course as per Col Regs when coming up to US fleet. Each time he refused a different American voice answered on the VHF which he suspected was going up the chain of command. Eventually the Americans gave way. What strikes me is, why so many apparently different OOW's on the US warships? The different the rank, the different the rules applied?

Ron Stringer
22nd February 2008, 19:38
In 1961 the 'Bretwalda' was a day or two out of Norfolk, Virginia, where we were heading to load grain for Belfast, when we were buzzed by a P2V Neptune reconnaissaince aircraft. He flew very low towards us, signalling the letter 'U' in morse by light from the cockpit. Some head scratching and wondering how we could be 'standing into danger' in the Atlantic, several hundred miles from the shore. The 3rd Mate, and later the Old Man, tried calling the aircraft on VHF Channel 16 but without receiving any response.

We maintained course and the aircraft returned at frequent intervals all morning, signalling 'U' and flying down our starboard side at bridge level so that we could see into the cockpit, where the crew were gesturing vigorously. Mystified we continued heading for Norfolk.

About 2 hours later the lookout on the bridge sighted a ship fine on the port bow. Then one dead ahead, followed by another fine on the starboard bow. Soon the horizon was filled with ships and it became clear that a large part of the US Navy was heading out of Norfolk and towards us. We carried on and passed right through the middle without further incident, just before dusk. There were no repercussions when we arrived in port. Not sure if things would have been so simple at night or in poor visibility.

sparkie2182
22nd February 2008, 20:08
reminds me of a well known 2/o who was on the o.o.w of a large british container vessel which was being buzzed by a military aircraft in canadian waters when approaching Halifax.
the plane made a number of passes, was saluted with friendly waves from the 2/o on the bridge wing,then disappeared towards land.
a couple of days later the 2/o was summoned to the captains office where there was a delegation of official looking canadians brandishing photographs.
there, on the captains desk were photos of the ship, taken from the plane, clearly showing the 2/o waving in excitement.
what it also clearly showed, sadly, was a 2 mile oil-slick eminating from the ship, trailing its way astern..........

which the 2/o had not seen

:)

bobs
22nd February 2008, 20:11
The two posts before the last one have borne striking similarities to the situation my mate found himself in on that VLCC. What would be good now would be if some real sea-lawyer could express an opinion (ie speculate) as to what would have been the outcome (with reference to ROR) of any inquiry if one of these incidents had resulted in contact of the too-close kind
Bob Scott

Santos
22nd February 2008, 20:52
Rule 1 (a) of ROR states that - These rules shall apply to all vessels upon the high seas and in all waters connected therewith navigable by seagoing vessels.

Therefore in the true context of the rules whichever vessel had contravened the rules would be at fault - no matter what it was, warship or merchant ship.

In the real world however the VLCC would have probably got the blame because there were too many witnesses in Naval uniform to say he was at fault (Jester)

Chris.

Cisco
22nd February 2008, 21:07
reminds me of a well known 2/o who was on the o.o.w of a large british container vessel which was being buzzed by a military aircraft in canadian waters when approaching Halifax.
the plane made a number of passes,

which the 2/o had not seen

:)

Reminds me of a BHP(?) bulkie crossing the Australian Bight in the late 70's. Buzzed by RAAF Orion which in 12 to 4 graveyard crossed ahead, waggled wings, flew off to north, came back waggled wings flew off to north etc etc ...

Bulkie steamed gaily on... sheep ship to the north burnt merrily and finally sank.....

Questions were asked.....

Bill Davies
22nd February 2008, 21:20
Bobs,
The scenario described above is well covered in the Rules and I'll not bore you with repeating what others have already said. However, this is a situation I have come up against several times at least in command of ULCCs. My 'Standing Orders' integral to 'Night Orders' covered the scenario and I would have been called.

bobs
22nd February 2008, 23:40
Bill;
My old mate got a severe bollocking from the master regarding the incident upon which this thread is based but it was not for any of his navigational decisions but for failing to alert the skipper to the approach of Uncle Sam's navy.
The Old Man just happened onto the bridge at wrong moment and very near passed a brick when he saw what appeared to be the whole US Navy passing either side.
But, bearing in mind that the naval flotilla was getting on for a mile wide, if not more, should or could my erstwhile colleague have left the whole lot of them to port or steamed on down between the columns as, in fact, he says he did?

freddythefrog
23rd February 2008, 01:35
Refer to the rules:-

when in danger
when in doubt
always give the
cook a shout!! ha-ha

Mike S
23rd February 2008, 03:28
On a gorgeous summers day off SW England in the early 60's entering the channel inward to Southampton on the Rangitane a large number of RN ships were seen on the horizon. The chart showed a Submarine Excercise Area close to land and we were passing at reduced speed (we were early for once!) leaving the area on our port bow and passing to the south by about 2 miles.
I called the Master and advised him and then as I looked a smoke candle popped up on the port bow. This was greeted by a "humph" from Commodore Rees and when three more popped up in a line moving away from our course heading towards the area it had become apparent that we had found the sub for the RN and had stuffed up their days fun!
He actually spoke to me chuckling quietly to himself, thanked me for calling him and was heading down below for a snooze, when I spotted a Daring Class destroyer heading towards us fine to port with a bow wave like a speed boat.
Round the stern of the Rangi he came approaching at reduced speed close alongside and hailed us.
"Sorry about that, the sub was in the wrong place!"
Ancient Mariner and very young 3/0 looked at each other and roared with laughter and waved our caps in return. (One did have to wear ones cap in the presence of the RN in those days don't you know!)
The Daring tooted, and after the required dipping of ensigns she took off like a startled hare for the fleet.
.....and we sailed on to Southampton in peace.....
The passengers thought all this was put on for their benefit and of course who were we to spoil things for them.(Smoke)

ray bloomfield
23rd February 2008, 20:54
the 2004 eighth edition of the mariners handbook (which I have in front of me, page 53, section 3.27) states quite plainly that a single vessel of whatever size when sighting a formation of warships should take early avoiding action so as not to impede the convoys progress, howsoever the convoy should or those with a very small CPA should be prepaired to take avoiding action should the OOW of the lowly civilian ship decide at that time to fall asleep or just say 'Stuff 'em' or like some of todays OOW's simply dont know what to do!!

Chouan
25th February 2008, 13:31
the 2004 eighth edition of the mariners handbook (which I have in front of me, page 53, section 3.27) states quite plainly that a single vessel of whatever size when sighting a formation of warships should take early avoiding action so as not to impede the convoys progress, howsoever the convoy should or those with a very small CPA should be prepaired to take avoiding action should the OOW of the lowly civilian ship decide at that time to fall asleep or just say 'Stuff 'em' or like some of todays OOW's simply dont know what to do!!

The Mariners Handbook, however useful, is not, "The Rules of the Road", although they are contained therein. So, it is to be used as guidance, not as gospel, especially as it is, effectively, published by the Navy, and might be biased in their favour. Just a bit.

I was on watch on Tradax's Cheyenne near Cape Trafalgar, when a US warship came up on us from astern. Using the VHF, he asked me what my intentions were, I explained that intended doing nothing. He explained that he thought that I was a crossing vessel. I explained to him that:
1) He was abaft my beam (actually well abaft my beam) and I therefore wasn't a crossing vessel, because him being astern of me; this would make him overtaking, but that this was irrelevant because:
2) In any case I wasn't going to alter my course or speed because I was at anchor.

Another voice then asked me what were my intentions. I again said that intended to remain at anchor. The voice then wished me a good day, which I reciprocated.

John Cassels
25th February 2008, 19:24
Chouan , you've lost me a bit on your last one. How near to Cape Trafalger
were you when anchored ?.

Chouan
25th February 2008, 20:28
Damned if I can remember now. It was 25? odd years ago! It was near there, in International waters, we were light ship, awaiting orders. The US warship had come from Cadiz, I'd guess, and was heading for the Straits.

How have I lost you?

billyboy
26th February 2008, 07:53
MikeS posting reminds me of the time we were passing through a submarine exercise area whilst heading west to Falmouth. A navy ship drew up alongside us and a signal man was flashing 10 to he dozen. The Mate had the watch and an AB was at the wheel. I was off watch and stood out on the bridge wing. The mate flashed him R/T and switched our radio on. He ignored that and steamed off at high speed. Very impressive I thought at the time. Then suddenly a Submarine surfaced like a cork close to our starboard side. Scared the hell out of me as i knew nothing of this being a submarine exercise area (being an engineer i wouldnt you see). we got the message and continued on a our course to Falmouth as usual. Dont think the Sand Boats were very popular with the RN at that time...LOL

Bill Davies
27th February 2008, 14:02
John ,

Quote: you've lost me a bit on your last one. How near to Cape Trafalger
were you when anchored ?.Unquote
Understand your dilemma! But then, I can only read your question.

Bill

Orbitaman
27th February 2008, 14:42
John ,

Quote: you've lost me a bit on your last one. How near to Cape Trafalger
were you when anchored ?.Unquote
Understand your dilemma! But then, I can only read your question.

Bill

What is the point of this post?

John Power
27th February 2008, 14:55
I would have thought the answer was quite simple 'Call the Old Man'

John

Topherjohn
31st March 2008, 23:48
These posts remind of my first voyage as 3/O on ore carrier Ravensworth 1963 Dagenham to Oxelosund. Entered the chartroom to relieve the Mate for tea. Saw he had NEMEDRI's littered all over the chartroom. We were heading NE to pass Texel to starboard. Scratching his head he turned and said with panic in a quaking voice (just imagine a broad Geordie accent here) "Well I don't know what the f......g hell the 2nd Mate's up to with his course but as far as I can tell we're f......g well in the middle of an f......g minefield!". Then he hastily disappeared below for tea. Result - one very nervous new 3/O! At that point distance to cleared waters either way was equal so we plowed on, fortunately with impunity (and fingers crossed)!

Jim MacIntyre
1st April 2008, 03:01
Chris
Similar memories of 1963 while 3/O on the Shell tanker 'Davila' delivering jet fuel to Sweden through Keil Canal. Charts in use at the time clearly identified uncleared minefield area on either side of the marked channel approaching the Elbe River. Kept you on your toes. Like you sailing with brand new ticket.
Jim Mac

Topherjohn
1st April 2008, 09:58
Chris
Similar memories of 1963 while 3/O on the Shell tanker 'Davila' delivering jet fuel to Sweden through Keil Canal. Charts in use at the time clearly identified uncleared minefield area on either side of the marked channel approaching the Elbe River. Kept you on your toes. Like you sailing with brand new ticket.
Jim Mac
G'day Jim - Don't suppose we were the only ones either! Of course the minefields had been swept by then but not enough I suppose to declare them totally safe. Very grateful I wasn't in it for real like the generation before us who have my deep gratitude and admiration.

D.Miller
9th April 2008, 09:31
I come late to your post, bobs, for which I apologise but I only just signed on this good ship.

It's an interesting situation though and one on which I would like to 'opine'.

When I was an apprentice I was taught, with the aid of many tweaks to my poor ears, the phrase "the prudent mariner", a phrase that seemed to crop-up a lot in situations that always seemed to turn out well for him, and throughout my career I let the said 'prudent mariner' be my mentor and it always stood me in very good stead.

Unfortunately in the year 2008 the voice of the said prudent mariner is no longer heard but has been replaced by macho man and his mates. How often have we all had ships that were clearly the 'alter course' ship stand on to the last possible moment before shaving bow or stern? Why do they do it? What in the world are they trying to prove? Or is it simply simptomatic of the general loss of manners and consideration that mars todays society. (I see that I am in danger of sounding like the old fart that I have become)

To the case in point: The real deciding factor is, as always, the cpa (closest point of approach) which would be governed by the separation between the ranks of warships (the fact that they were warships has, as has already been stated, no bearing in the problem whatever). If your vessel were a v or ulcc then personally, and I have had a few to drive, I would become uncomfortable with less than 1nm in open sea conditions so unless the lanes were + 2 n miles then let the prudent mariner rule the waves, go to starboard and leave the whole boiling of them to port.

But if I were an OOW that had steamed through the approaching fleet without first calling 'Father' I'd be expecting more than a tweak of the ear

David

kevinseery
18th April 2008, 23:41
I had an experience as mate on the Irishgate a few years ago on passage from Milford Haven to Dublin. We came across a convoy of US naval ships several miles long heading for the Clyde for an exercise. I called the Master of course as there was a possibility there could be problems. As it happens we were going to pass astern of one ship and ahead of the next in line without any alteration being required. However the warship that we would have passed ahead of called us on VHF and said "LITTLE ORANGE TANKER BE ADVISED THAT WE WILL NOT BE ALTERING OUR COURSE AND YOU SHOULD KEEP CLEAR". Discretion being the better part of valour, and him being the one with the guns, we went round in circles until the convoy had passed, as did the Holyhead to Dunlaoghaire ferry!!

KIWI
19th April 2008, 00:59
On Maloja in the Mediterranean we ran into the Yankee fleet which required a heavy turn to starboard.Fortunately no one was hurt but a dance floor of dancers all heaped up on one side in very indecorous positions was something to see.Believe there were similar incidents in the public rooms especially where liquid was invoved. Kiwi

Phil C
27th April 2008, 22:50
All these posts and nobody has asked if a risk of collision existed(Jester) We all know the answer if the above is the case(Thumb)

UK091181
1st May 2008, 11:42
Sit on the bridge toilet and lock the door.

Besides that the answer isn't difficult, you keep out of the way! All simple, your mate is swinging the lantern

jaydeeare
1st May 2008, 12:30
Just close your eyes and think of England!

JimC
2nd May 2008, 12:32
G'day Jim - Don't suppose we were the only ones either! Of course the minefields had been swept by then but not enough I suppose to declare them totally safe. Very grateful I wasn't in it for real like the generation before us who have my deep gratitude and admiration.

Absolutely right Chris. A few years before this - in the early 1950s, I was an Apprentice on the 4-8 watch in the same area. There was a bouyed channel at the time and the weather was as usual - foul with a strong cold wind and very poor visibility - near fog. We had had a warning that a ship had hit a mine some way ahead of us. The old man was on the bridge and everyone was on tenderhooks as you might expect.
I was first wheel and after being releived as normal, went below for my hour on standby. At 3 am I relieved the bow look-out for the last hour of the watch. He told me that the radar had picked up something ahead and I was to keep my eyes peeled. About ten minutes after that, I was straining my eyes to try and see anything ahead when I thought I saw a ship passing from port to stbd. I did the usual and nearly broke the bell giving the three 'dings'. Our ship was on 'dead slow' so we were creeping through the water. As we got closer, I thought I could see that the other ship was making way but it looked rather strange since it had no freeboard at all. Actually it was not moving - it was on the bottom and we were altering to port into the minefield because the channel was almost completely blocked. We passed round the stern of the sunken ship - very closely! I think so anyway because I had my eyes shut, my heart had stopped and my mouth was completely dried-up. No true actually - in fact it was getting light and I could see the name on the stern. Ironically it was a german ship. I don't know who planted the mine though. I learned later that there had not been any loss of life but I can tell you it was scary for about 20 minutes!

Jim C.

Mike S
2nd May 2008, 13:07
First voyage with a brand new second mates certificate, on am 4~8 watch around 0750.
RMS Rangitane a day passed the Azores outward bound, weather improving by the hour. 2nd Officer and myself on the Bridge and the Master Commodore Rees had just appeared when I spotted something in the water fine to port about a mile in front.
It was a mine, bobbing on the surface.....
" Stbd Ten " I ordered and then when we had come around 15 degrees I ordered "Midships and steady as she goes"
I then pointed out to the 2nd Officer and the Master what I had seen as they were both looking at me as though I had gone mad!
We all watched from the port wing as the evil looking sod passed well clear to port and we then resumed course.
"Good thing you have sharp eyes young feller" came the gruff comment from "Father"
I privately thought "Good thing it was daylight young feller."
We then sent off a "CQ" and headed for breakfast..
I hate mines........