MARS 184 - February 2008


Navigation in restricted visibility

Official Report Source: USCG Safety Alert HMRMS 04-07

A ship strikes a highway bridge, causing damage to the fender system and a 53,000-gallon oil spill. A barge strikes a US Navy facility, causing extensive damage. Two tugs, one pushing a loaded gasoline barge, collide, narrowly avoiding a disaster. What do these recent marine casualties have in common? All the vessels were navigating in restricted visibility.

Although the investigation of these incidents is ongoing, they provide an opportunity to remind mariners of the hazards of navigation in restricted visibility and the procedures required to do so safely.

Of course, the best way to avoid an accident in restricted visibility is not to get underway, or to seek a safe haven if conditions change while underway. But that is not always practical, so every vessel must be well prepared for navigation in restricted visibility every time the vessel gets underway.

Companies should adopt written policies emphasising that a delay to the vessel is preferable to the undesirable consequences of an accident. Those policies should place the responsibility for sailing a vessel with the vessel’s master, and prohibit interference or second-guessing by shoreside managers.

If a vessel must navigate in restricted visibility certain procedures must be followed.


Staff Author