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    Re: Fatal interaction between yacht and ferry.
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2007 May 10, 21:26 +0100

    Bill wrote-
    
    | > My question stands.  You can see the craft--why not radio it???
    
    And Lu answered-
    
    | I find the willingness of commercial traffic to communicate with
    | recreational vessels sometimes severely lacking.   Many commercial
    | mariners readily respond to hails from recreational craft.  But I've
    | also had the experience of having hails to commercial vessels (mostly to
    | understand their navigational intent) totally ignored even though I
    | clearly identified my boat and my location relative to the commercial
    | vessel.  This seems especially acute when you can't identify the vessel
    | by name but rather identify it solely by position.
    |
    | I will have to admit that a hail on Channel 13 ofttimes works better
    | than a hail on Ch 16.  I suspect many commercial vessel watch standers
    | develop a certain tone-deafness for traffic on 16.   And I have to
    | wonder if that is especially acute in a high vessel traffic area such as
    | the English Channel where this accident took place.
    
    ==============
    
    I think Lu's last sentence explains the problems that he found.
    
    In European waters, vessels are actively discouraged from using VHF to
    mediate their interactions.
    
    Instead, they are expected to use the colregs, and nothing but the colregs,
    at all times. And NEVER to agree a course of action that is contrary to
    those colregs.
    
    This is in complete contrast to the situation in US, and perhaps Canadian,
    waters, as I understand it. There are several good reasons for those
    differences. One is the very high traffic density, especially in English
    Channel waters. Another is the multiplicity of languages. International
    navigators, in general, are expected to speak some sort of English. But one
    only has to listen to (for example) Jobourg Traffic, the French surveillance
    station near Cherbourg, communicating with Japanese watch officers, then
    Breton fisherman, then Egyptian masters, to realise the pronunciation
    problems that can ensue. Even in Britain, a broad Tynesider is almost
    unintelligibe to a native Cornishman, and vice versa.
    
    There are many difficulties in exchanging intentions over VHF, when there
    are many vessels around; particularly when it's not possible to identify the
    vessels involved.
    
    This sort of thing can happen, and has happened. Vessel A notes that she is
    on a likely collision course with vessel B, and tries to contact her via
    VHF, giving her ownposition and the approxinate distance and bearing of B. B
    fails to respond, but vessel C in the vicinity happens to spot another
    vessel, D, at the corresponding reciprocal bearing, and the right sort of
    distance. C assumes that D is the vessel sending the radio message, and
    responds. Between them, they agree how they are to pass, and C changes
    course to do so. A expects B to change course accordingly, and is surprised
    by B's inaction. D may also be taken by surprise by C's unexpected
    manoeuvre. A simple crossing situation has been converted into a dangerous
    event.
    
    That was certainly a severe danger in the past; much less dangerous in
    recent years, now that GPS allows vessels to know their own precise
    positions on a common grid. And the introduction of AIS to commercial
    vessels, and its potential spread to leisure craft, will allow for positive
    identification of the vessels involved, and selective calling will then
    allow commumication with the wanted vessel, rather than a channel 16
    broadcast. Has the obligation to keep a listening watch on ch. 16 now
    vanished, anyway?
    
    In response to those developments, it may be that dialogue on VHF may become
    more accepted as a means of collision avoidance in European waters. But that
    hasn't happened yet. If you visit those waters, don't expect to get a
    response to such a call. Of course, if it becomes an emergency situation,
    that's another matter altogether.
    
    Finally, I'm rather surprised that the reaction from navlist members to that
    fatal accident report has concentrated so hard on the question of radar
    echoes. There has been no response at all about the standard of watchkeeping
    on the ferry on that clear night. And no reaction to the fact that the ferry
    came (at least) so close to the yacht that a double-jink was called for in
    an avoiding manoeuvre. And yet it appears no action was taken to check on
    the well-being of the yacht, no attempt was made to inform the master,
    below, and no mention was made in the log. In my view, that will take a lot
    of explaining.
    
    George.
    
    contact George Huxtable at george---.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    
    
    
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