Lessons Learnt: Collision with fishing vessel

Collision with a Fishing Vessel
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Vessel Type: Bulk carrier

Incident description

The vessel was proceeding at night in coastal waters. Weather and visibility were reported to be good. The OOW was accompanied by an AB as lookout with automatic steering engaged. A vessel was observed approximately one point on the starboard bow at a range of 5 n.m. and was acquired on the ARPA. As the target vessel was small and brightly lit, the OOW identified it as a fishing vessel although navigation and signal lights were indistinct. The radar plot indicated that the fishing vessel was crossing slowly and on a steady bearing involving risk of collision. When at a range of about 1.5 n.m., the OOW altered his vessel’s course 22 degrees to starboard and used the bridge signal lamp to alert the fishing vessel crew. Shortly after this manoeuvre was completed, the fishing vessel then altered course so as to cross from port to starboard at which the OOW altered course to port to the original heading. With the fishing vessel now very close on the starboard bow, it altered course yet again bringing it in collision with the bulk carrier’s starboard side.


Despite the fishing vessel being sighted in good time, the OOW failed to take proper action to avoid collision. The alteration of course was too little too late to prevent a close quarter situation developing with the fishing vessel. Although other vessels engaged in fishing in the area were said to have restricted the available sea room, early and decisive action may have been taken by the OOW to avoid concentrations of fishing vessels and a reduction in speed considered to allow more time for decision making. Fishing vessels may not always be relied upon to keep a good lookout, manoeuvre as expected or display the correct lights and signals where catching fish may be prioritised over compliance with the COLREGS. The bulk carrier also failed to make use of sound signals to alert the fishing vessel crew.

Lessons Learnt

  • Where risk of collision is determined to exist, early and bold avoiding action should be taken and its effectiveness closely monitored
  • A high state of vigilance is required when navigating in the vicinity of fishing vessels for which appropriate watch keeping arrangements should be in place
  • When navigating in or near areas of high traffic density, consideration should be given to reducing the vessel’s speed and engaging manual steering
  • If in any doubt, call the master
  • Do not neglect to make use of sound signals as required by the COLREGS
  • In the event of a collision or suspected collision with a fishing vessel:
    • Communicate with and provide all necessary assistance to the other vessel
    • Report any incidents to the nearest MRCC
    • Save VDR evidence

Captain David Nichol

Senior Loss Prevention Executive (Greece)