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Ships Navigation in heavy weather and recommended action by master

Encountering extreme weather conditions at sea along major trade routes is a common phenomenon. Depending upon geographical location and seasonality of revolving tropical storms, a ship, therefore, need to prepare well to survive in harsh conditions. Both heavy weather and tropical storms demand of crew's preparation and immediate response.

Judgment of navigation in heavy weather : Navigation in heavy weather is defined as conditions with winds of Beaufort Scale 7 or more and a Significant Wave Height of 4 meters or more. The Master should obtain a forecast for the area of expected heavy weather. Passage plan should be checked for an estimated time of passing such an area. If not on weather routing advice already, in case of a severe storm, he may ask for such services through the operator.

Report To The Master: The watch (OOW) officer should collect necessary weather information and navigational warnings and report it to the Master. During navigation in heavy weather, if there are any sudden changes in climatic conditions, the OOW should immediately report to the Master.

Ships navigation in heavy weather check item
  1. Have you informed C/E (Engine Room), head of departments and crew?
  2. Have you confirmed openings such as W/T doors / vents/ ports/ chain pipes/ sounding pipes etc are all closed securely?
  3. Have all cargo lashings been checked and tightened?
  4. Have you secured derricks, cranes and davits?
    Meeting rough seas
  5. Have all movable objects everywhere onboard (on deck, in the engine room, stores, accommodation, galley, etc.) been securely fixed?
  6. Has ballast been adjusted to reduce the free surface effect and are draft, trim, and stability conditions adequate?
  7. Have you inspected anchor stowage, lashing, and stoppers of anchors and chain?
  8. Have brakes of the windlass been extra tightened and mooring wires and ropes been well secured?
  9. Are two power units for the steering gear running?
  10. Has the vessel's course and speed been adjusted as necessary (on masters orders), to minimize adverse effects of heavy weather?
  11. Has crew been warned to not go out on weather deck without permission? Moreover, is permission granted only after appraising the situation, adjusting course (on masters orders) if required?
  12. Have safety ropes and hand ropes been arranged where necessary (if required)?
  13. Consideration of loading Heavy weather ballast in cargo Tanks?
  14. Have instructions been given on: Keeping watch on weather reports (monitoring) & Transmitting weather reports, or danger message (in case of tropical storm) as per SOLAS V/2a
  15. Any additional instructions from the Master

The master's action

If possible, the Master shall select a reasonable route that allows the vessel to avoid navigation in heavy weather or keep a safe distance from the storm center. The Master must regulate speed and alter course in heavy weather, as required by good seamanship, to avoid the possibility of damage to ship and cargo and avoid the needless fuel expenditure. Reduction of a few revolutions will make a considerable difference to the motion of the ship, but very little difference in voyage time. When he judges that the vessel will be in heavy weather, the Master shall take necessary countermeasures as per above mentioned "Navigation in Heavy Weather Checklist." If the vessel is available to use a specific cargo tank designated for Heavy Weather Ballasting, and the Master considers it necessary to do so due to inadequate draft, he shall inform management. Company. Also, he shall take all necessary precautions for this Ballasting and De-ballasting process.

Inspection before entering and after leaving heavy weather

The Master shall inspect the vessel and cargo during navigation in (if practicable) and just after heavy weather conditions and advise Company if any damage has occurred. Any possible (even if temporary) repairs by ship staff either to the Hull, Fittings, or the Cargo (Containers) must be attempted by ship staff as soon as weather abates.

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