200353 Cross TSS at 90 Degrees

22 Feb 2003 MARS

Cross TSS at 90 Degrees
Report No. 200353

I have been sailing on container ships for the past ten years primarily in the Far East, but in Europe and Canada for the past two. As with most people, I tend to flip straight to the MARS section of my Seaways as soon as I receive it to see what kind of cowboys are out there. I have personally come across most of the traffic situations which are mentioned as I'm sure most of the readers have. However, one happened the other day which could not be ignored. It was the most ridiculous interpretation of the rules I have ever experienced!!

My ship was bound for Hamburg and was in the NE bound lane Off Texel TSS, course 029(T). Daylight was breaking, with good weather and good visibility. I observed a small coaster on my port bow crossing at almost perfect right angles. Standard crossing situation - yes? At six miles, I started to pay attention to her and noted that she was crossing at about 0.3nm ahead. From my experience with crossing vessels, I tend to tweak my course to starboard early to discourage them from crossing my bow. Usually it works!! This time, I noticed that as I adjusted to starboard, he came to port to maintain the 0.3nm CPA!! At three miles I started to give him the five flashes and started to alter to starboard as we were closing. The more I altered, the more he altered to port. At less than 2.0 miles, it was now or never. I had previously checked the chart and had the room for either a round turn or even to parallel his course as he was about 12.0 knots to my 20.0 knots. So I came around to 070 (T) and put him passing 0.3nm astern. He then called me up on the VHF and said, "please alter to port as I am following the rules of the road and am crossing the traffic lanes at 90 degrees and cannot alter!" I strongly replied in the negative and told him to come around my stern, which he agreed to without hesitation. Finally at less than 1nm, he came around slightly to starboard to pass less than 0.5nm astern of me. He then continued on his original course.

I was astounded by his remark and his interpretation of the rules. I spent the remainder of the watch debating his reasoning and interpretation. After discussion with the other officers on board, we agreed that it was correct to cross the lanes at right angles or as nearly as practicable to right angles but it seems that he honestly believed that it was the only rule applicable to him at the time, and that he had to cross those lanes at 90 degrees and other ships should keep out of his way!!

The interesting part of this was after discussing with the other officers and jokingly asking "can you believe it?", all of the replies were "YES"!! Which just confirms the way the industry is going!! We see it everyday!! What kind of a battle are we up against here, where you have to learn tricks of the trade to force people to comply with the rules, or where you must study the chart well off your intended course line 'just in case', when now it seems, 'just in case' occurs quite frequently? It would be interesting to hear if anyone else has hints to deal with these present day cowboys!!!

I do not agree that "tweaking the course to starboard" is a good idea. It is contrary to the Rules and will not be noticed by the other vessel. Ed.