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Action by vessels in high traffic areas like Singapore strait

What is congested water ? Safety of navigation in the Singapore strait
High density traffic waters ( referred to as "Congested waters") means an area of water where due to presence of many vessels in the vicinity, a repeated risk of collision exists and it may be difficult for own vessel to maintain her course.

An area of water where the situation repeatedly arises in which a vessel is likely to collide with another vessel and an action to avoid a collision is limited by the existence of a third vessel or fixed structure, or where such situation is expected to arise.

Safety of navigation in the Singapore strait

The Singapore Strait is a narrow and busy waterway where a large number of vessels transit daily. These vessels include bulk carriers, container vessels, ferries, tankers, very large crude carriers (VLCC), barges under tow and fishing vessels. In the interest of navigational safety, shipmasters of vessels navigating in the Singapore Strait are reminded to observe the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Seas (COLREGS) and the “Rules for Vessels Navigating Through The Straits of Malacca and Singapore” adopted by the IMO.

Singapore strait traffic
Singapore strait traffic

To enhance navigational safety, the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) constantly monitors vessel movements in the Singapore Strait and provides traffic information and advice to shipmasters to enable them to appraise the traffic situation. The Singapore VTIS has observed that reducing vessel’s speed is an action not commonly taken and would like to remind shipmasters of the following rules concerning actions on speed of vessels:

i) International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972

Rule 6: Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and condition.

In determining a safe speed the following factors shall be among those taken into account:

(a) By all vessels:
(i) the state of visibility;
(ii) the traffic density including concentrations of fishing vessels or any other vessels;
(iii) the manoeuvrability of the vessel with special reference to stopping distance and turning ability in the prevailing conditions;
(iv) at night the presence of background light such as from shore lights or from back scatter of her own lights;
(v) the state of wind, sea and current, and the proximity of navigational hazards;
(vi) the draught in relation to the available depth of water.

Radar navigation

(b) Additionally, by vessels with operational radar:

(i) the characteristics, efficiency and limitations of the radar equipment;
(ii) any constraints imposed by the radar scale in use;
(iii) the effect on radar detection of the sea state, weather and other sources of interference;
(iv) the possibility that small vessels, ice and other floating objects may not be detected by radar at an adequate range;
(v) the number, location and movement of vessels detected by radar;
(vi) the more exact assessment of the visibility that may be possible when radar is used to determine the range of vessels or other objects in the vicinity.
Rule 8 (e): If necessary to avoid collision or allow more time to assess the situation, a vessel shall slacken her speed or take all way off by stopping or reversing her means of propulsion.
ii) Rules for Vessels navigating through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore
Rule (7): VLCCs1 and deep draught vessels navigating in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore shall, as far as it is safe and practicable, proceed at a speed of not more than 12 knots over the ground in the following areas:

(a) At One Fathom Bank traffic separation scheme;
(b) Deep-water routes in the Phillip Channel and in Singapore Strait; and
(c) Westbound lanes between positions 01°12.51’N, 103°52.15’E and
01°11.59’N, 103°50.21’E and between position 01°11.13’N, 103°49.08’E and 01°08.65’N,103°44.30’E.

Rule 8: All vessels navigating in the roueting system of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore shall maintain at all times a safe speed consistent with safe navigation, shall proceed with caution and shall be in a maximum state of manoeuvring readiness.

The OOW must always be aware of the possibility of navigation in congested waters, and if the vessel is expected to navigate such areas, he must take the following action:
  1. Early evacuation from the congested area, if possible.
  2. Arrangement of Lookout(s).
  3. Report to the Master.
  4. Test of manual steering or changeover to manual steering.
  5. Contact with Engineers, if necessary
  6. Reduction to a safe speed, if required.
  7. Running in Parallel of Power units of Steering gears.
Action of the masters in congested waters

The Master, when the vessel is in congested waters or upon receiving the report from the OOW above, must confirm the situation and increase officers or ratings for lookout as required. He shall take over the command of the vessel.

Acttion of the master and officer of the watch in restricted visibility conditions :

If the vessel encounters congested waters under restricted visibility conditions, the Master and OOW must navigate the vessel carefully according to the provisions of the "Procedures for Navigation in Restricted Visibility Conditions" in addition to those outlined above.

A comprehensive passage plan to be available for the voyage and it cover the full voyage from berth to berth. Notes: The following should be marked on the chart, where it enhances safe navigation:

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