Three major flag states are calling on IMO to introduce a global requirement for vessels crossing IMO-adopted traffic separation schemes (TSSs) to display a uniform night signal. The joint proposal calls for amendments to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (Colregs), which would apply to vessels of 50m and more in length. Supported by Liberia and the Marshall Islands, the proposal is spearheaded by Singapore as part of an ongoing, wider effort by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to improve the prevention of collisions in the Singapore Strait and thus reduce the risk of fatal accidents and oil pollution incidents. A reminder of the potential magnitude of the risk came with the recent collision between a very large crude carrier and a 14,000 teu container ship off Singapore in August this year.
The proposal for a mandatory night signal consisting of three green lights mounted on a vertical line is co-sponsored by the governments of Liberia and the Marshall Islands and supported by the results of a formal safety assessment study. The study, which was conducted by Lloyd’s Register on behalf of MPA, focused on the risk of collision in the Singapore Strait. It included an analysis to demonstrate the applicability of the findings to other areas of high traffic and navigational risk. The chosen areas were the English Channel and San Francisco Bay, where IMO-adopted TSSs also apply.
A night signal of three green lights was identified as a cost effective means of reducing collision incidents. From among the total of 31 risk control options studied, it had the highest weighted percentage – 19 per cent – in terms of both ease and effectiveness of implementation. This compared to 13 per cent for bridge resource management that would require increased manning. Other less effective options included reporting intention to cross a TSS via Automatic Identification System (AIS) messaging, and reducing speed while proceeding in a TSS.
MPA recently upgraded its vessel traffic services operational centre for the port and the Singapore Strait. It has been addressing the difficulty for vessels transiting the Singapore Strait of understanding whether a vessel arriving or departing from the port would be crossing the traffic separation scheme. A risk assessment study conducted 10 years ago indicated that the difficulty was particularly pronounced at night, due to the background lights from landward facilities.
In 2010, IMO endorsed the voluntary implementation, with effect from 1 July 2011, of an interim recommendatory measure for the Singapore Strait involving the display at night of three all-round green lights. This was subsequently adopted as a fully-fledged IMO recommendation, with effect from 1 July 2013, but without being binding. Surveys conducted into the effectiveness of the voluntary measure, from July 2011 to September 2014, showed that 91 per cent of crossing vessels observed the measure, and that 97 per cent of transiting vessels found the measure beneficial.
Feedback obtained from ship masters with experience of the Singapore Strait further suggested that the display of the three green lights during the hours of darkness would be beneficial in many other areas around the world, too. Identified areas included the straits of Malacca, Hormuz, Bab el Mandeb and Gibraltar, the Gulf of Suez, the approaches to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Japan, and the Hook of Holland, and North Hinder. Reasons given in the mariners’ survey ranged from stress reduction and the watchkeeper feeling safer to greater situational awareness and improved common understanding among mariners.
The formal safety assessment study was complemented by a bridge simulation exercise that demonstrated a significantly improved risk reduction in terms of the shorter time it took the ship’s lookout to detect and identify crossing vessels and their direction correctly. MPA hopes that IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee, which meets from 21 November, will agree to fast-track the proposal.
SOURCES: News Now/Asia/Middle East Maritime Focus Online