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Safety of navigation in congested water: Singapore strait

Ships navigation is referred to the voyage practices, focusing on the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of the ship from point "A" to point "B". Choosing the most optimum route while transiting through traffic-congested water is even more challenging. Specifically, due to the presence of many vessels in the vicinity, a repeated risk of collision exists. Any action to avoid close quarter situation with another vessel is limited due to the existence of a third vessel or proximity of shoal water or other fixed structure, or where such a situation is expected to arise. We have summarized below some critical elements of navigation in congested water.

Container ship laden voyage
Oil Tanker Safety Guide
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 the 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:
  1. International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 Rule 6 dictates:
    "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:
  2. Rule 8 (e): If necessary to avoid a collision or allow more time to assess the 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
  3. 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 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.
  4. Rule 8: All vessels navigating in the routing 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 maneuvering readiness.

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

Action 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:

Related Information

Notable areas of congested water

Navigational procedures for ship in confined water

Collecting Information and Data for Passage Planning

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