200505 Slow down if in doubt

05 Jan 2005 MARS

Slow down if in doubt
MARS Report 200505

Recently, a friend forwarded MARS Report 96010 to me. As you had so rightly commented, this report was certainly interesting. As an ex-Master of container ships which transited the Singapore Strait regularly, I can certainly understand the concerns of Masters of vessels in the westbound lane of the TSS. In the report, mention was made of Rule 2(b); Rule 9(d) and Rule 10(k) & (l). However, I believe, in areas such as the Singapore Strait and the One Fathom Bank to the north, as well as in the vicinity of Perim Island in the Red Sea, the proper rule to apply is Rule 6, - the "Safe Speed" rule.

I do realise that very often Masters have to contend with unrealistic charter parties negotiated by charter brokers, not seafarers. Even with the "HILL HARMONY" decision, I do not think any sensible judge would fault the Master if he reduces speed while transiting in such areas. I had always reduced my speed and kept the engine room fully manned when transiting these areas. Unfortunately, with the advent of modern 'instantaneous' communications, we have bred a generation of Masters who have been so tied to the apron string of the head office that they dare not make any decisions or take any actions without the nod from the head office. Perhaps, it is about time nautical schools teach the future generations of Masters that they are Masters "under God and King/Queen/President". I had always operated this premise and that probably accounts for my being relegated to older vessels of the fleet. But if that is the price to pay, so be it. At least I can still walk with my head high and, after 25 years at sea, I, by the grace of God, had not have to face any inquiries into collisions or groundings. (though I have had many brushes with irate charterers and chartering managers.)

This report demands some feedback from present-day Masters. Let us hear your views on whether you are so constrained by schedules that they cannot slow down in difficult situations. RB