93047 Near Miss Crossing Korea

16 Feb 1993 MARS

 Appalling Standards of Navigation
- Port of Ulsan/Onsan, Korea.
- Report No. 93047.

I write the following report as a warning to readers with regard to the appalling standards of navigation which occur in this area. There are three SBM's for the mooring of VLCC's, these buoys are occupied on a very frequent basis. There is a large coastal trade and a constant stream of traffic passes the mooring buoys at close range.

Own vessel, which was discharging at one of the buoys, received a typhoon warning; acting on advice from the terminal, it was decided to cease discharging and proceed to sea until the typhoon had passed. After unberthing, under pilot's advice we commenced to swing to port to clear the harbour in an easterly direction. At this time a small coaster proceeding south, and hence on our port side, tried to cross our bows at a range of 0.1 miles. Despite sounding our whistle and warnings from the escorting tug and pilot boat, the coaster maintained his course and speed. Visibility at the time was about 2 miles. Full astern was rung and an accident avoided.

After dropping the pilot we made a second attempt to head East, again a coaster heading South tried to cross our bows, this time at 2 cables range. Despite warning blasts on the whistle he maintained his course and speed. Another full astern avoided a nasty situation. Two cables may have seemed sufficient to the coaster but since own vessel was starting to make headway the CPA would have been much less.

All targets were being plotted on ARPA, a large car carrier was ahead of us at three miles but not visible. We had by now managed to turn east to clear the port. The car carrier was observed on the radar to turn 1800 to starboard and head back into the port on our starboard bow with a CPA of 0.1 miles. Another ring of half astern to reduce speed until the car carrier made up his mind where he was going. Whilst this was going on, another two small ships, both about 3,000 tonnes, had appeared on our port quarter. One a cargo vessel, the other a chemical tanker. Both were doing about 12 knots and both were on a steady bearing. These vessels were so close that my only option to avoid a collision was to turn to starboard and attempt to parallel them until the situation could be better assessed. This was done and the cargo vessel started to clear down the port side whilst the chemical tanker made a turn to starboard and crossed our stern. The cargo vessel, which had almost got ahead of me, made a 1800 turn to port and then crossed our stern.

The following afternoon we returned, the visibility was now about 6 miles. The pilot boarded and we headed for the mooring buoy on a course of 2700. About 1 mile south and slightly east of the buoy, a VLCC in ballast was anchored. Tugs were in attendance to assist our mooring when a coaster of approximately 5,000 tonnes appeared heading North (on our port bow). Our bow was by now 0.2 miles from the SBM and we were making headway at about 0.5 knots. We sounded warning blasts on the whistle and the tugs also gave warning. Despite this the coaster passed between the floating hoses on the buoy and our bow, 0.1 miles from our bow and only feet away from the hoses. According to the Loading Master, these situations are very common and the coastal traffic had no appreciation of the "Rules of the Road". It would appear that the coastal traffic uses the SBM's as "waypoints".

Whilst on passage off the South Coast we had a port side crossing vessel on a steady bearing. After flashing him with the Aldis lamp we eventually got a reply on the VHF. When he was advised that he was the giving way vessel and that he should alter course to starboard to pass astern of us, we got the reply, "Me go to Japan!!" On repeating our request we got the reply, "Me come from Yosu!". With people like this in charge of millions of dollars worth of ship and cargo, not to say anything of the lives involved, its not surprising that the shipping industry is regarded as a pariah.