ship handling

Ships operation-Initial response to engine or steering gear trouble



When a vessel is not under command due to trouble with the Main engine or Steering Gear, the Officer of the Watch shall immediately take the following measures:

  • Stopping Engine (in case trouble of steering engine)

  • Alerting other vessels nearby (By means of lights for ‘Not Under Command,’ Whistle or VHF)
  • Reporting to the Master and Chief Engineer
  • Confirming the vessel Position
  • Estimating the Drifting Direction and Speed
Where the design of the steering gear permits, the second steering motor must always be in operation prior to any manoeuvring situation or where additional steering performance is required. The practice of good seamanship also dictates that both steering motors are to be kept on for prompt response and prudent risk reduction during passages in restricted waters.



Response To Engine Trouble

The Master shall take necessary measures in response to trouble in compliance with “Attention to Engine Trouble”

When engine trouble occurs, the Master shall make an initial report to the Company. The Master shall report “Engine Trouble Report (Second & following reports)” to the Company. The extent of damages to the engine should be determined.

Masters and deck officers to be aware that responsibilities of the Bridge Team are not alleviated once the pilot embarks the vessel. The Master and deck officers must remain fully vigilant to the vessel’s position at all times in relation to the passage plan.


Steering failure & contingency plans

The passage plan must be approved and signed by the Master and although much of what will have been pre-planned may have to be changed after embarking the pilot, this in no way detracts from the need to mark out in advance where the ship must not go, or to give initial warning that the ship is standing into danger. Particular attention to detail must be made to meteorological conditions, latest weather forecasts, tidal data, UKC calculations , emergency abort points, locations where tugs are to be met and the use of parallel indexing.

Attention is drawn to the following extract from IMO Resolution A 285 (VIII):

“Despite the duties and obligations of a Pilot, his presence on board does not relieve the Officer of the Watch from his duties and obligations for safety of the ship. He should co-operate closely with the Pilot and maintain an accurate check on the vessel’s position and movements. If he is in any doubt as to the Pilot’s actions or intentions, he must seek clarification from the Pilot and if doubt still exists, he is to notify the Master immediately and take whatever action is necessary before the Master arrives.”

In summary, if the Master / Officer of the watch do not receive what he considers to be a satisfactory response from the Pilot, he must immediately take over the direct control of the vessel until he is satisfied that the vessel is back on her intended track or until the vessel is in a safe position.

Strong Bridge Team culture onboard aids with the elimination of one-man errors and assists with maintaining situational awareness. To encourage this culture, all deck officers attend a shore-based BTM refresher course every 36 months. If this is not the case onboard your vessels then please bring it to the attention of your DPA.



Report to External Body

When it is likely that safety of navigation will be impaired by a failure to the Steering gear, Propeller, Power generator system, etc., or when it is feared that oil could be discharged unintentionally, the Master shall immediately inform the nearest coastal station or Coast Guard station.

A Bell book must be used to record significant information pertaining to the vessel’s movements. There should be sufficient facts to be able to reconstruct the passage.



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