Fog in the Humber Estuary

A small cargo vessel was proceeding out to sea from an anchorage in the River Humber.  A fishing vessel was inbound for Grimsby Fish Docks.  Visibility was 100m due to fog.  When the range had closed to one mile, the master of the cargo vessel noticed the fishing vessel’s echo on his radar and assumed the other vessel would pass starboard to starboard.  The skipper of the fishing vessel, having also detected the cargo vessel on his radar at short range, altered course to starboard in order to pass port to port.  Despite the poor visibility both vessels were proceeding at full service speeds.  The master of the cargo vessel attempted to contact the fishing vessel to confirm a starboard to starboard passing but did not use the channel being monitored by the fishing vessel.  The two vessels collided.  Which rules were breached?

Neither skipper displayed good seamanship.  Both vessels were proceeding at full and excessive speed in fog, a violation of Rule 6.  Risk of collision would have been much reduced had the fishing vessel kept to the starboard side of the channel as required by Rule 14, Head-on situation, or had the master of the cargo vessel taken action to avoid collision as recommended in Rule 17, Action by stand-on vessel.  In addition, there were likely violations of Rule 5, Look-out, and Rule 35, Sound signals in restricted visibility.  Following the late detection of the other vessel, those in charge of both vessels made the classic error of taking action on the basis of insufficient information, and they were both wrong.

Source: Marine Accident Investigation Branch, UK

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