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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Posts
    41

    Default Dazzling the COLREGS

    Back at the beginning of October I was sailing with a friend on his Moody 31. We left the mooring just South of the Barrow to Walney Island bridge at 04:00 and set off down the Walney Channel with a sluicing ebb tide under us. After being disconcertingly chased by a suction dredger just off the mouth of the Barrow Docks we motored happily down the channel in pitch darkness keeping an eye on the well lit buoys and posts.

    I became aware of two bright lights some distance ahead. It wasn't clear what they were, nothing on the chart, so I assumed thay were deck lights on a workboat or some such. The lights began to get a bit bigger and brighter, but obviously this was to do with our rapid motion down the channel with the tide, it looked as if they were to the stbd side of the channel ... we motored on.

    Suddenly, or so it seemed, the lights were very large and closing rapidly, and eventually when very close it was just possible to see a red nav light beside the white glare. It was one of the windfarm workboats travelling quickly with two powerful 'headlights'.

    The skipper was a bit quicker than I was to recognise that this was an oncoming vessel and shoved the helm over. I worry that I might not have reacted in time and we could have had a problem.

    What do people think? I can quite see that the workboat wants to see where it's going and doesn't want to hit unlit mooring buoys, seals, submarines, broken down fishing boats, escaped containers etc. And presumably (?) while it's doing this it's keeping a good lookout (?) , but it knocks a huge hole in the COLREGS and makes it impossible for other craft to see where it's going or how to keep out of its way.

    I was doubtful about posting this until I came across a Norwegian AIB report into the collision between the frigate Helge Ingstad and the tanker Sola TS in a Norwegian fjord a year ago. If you remember the consequences for the frigate were somewhat terminal. It appears that a similar problem with bright lights was a contributing factor:

    "When Sola TS set out on its northbound passage with the forward-pointing deck lights turned on, it was difficult for the frigate’s bridge team to see the tanker’s navigation lights and the flashing of the Aldis lamp, and thereby identify the ‘object’ as a vessel. The shipping company Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement SA had not established compensatory safety measures with regards to the reduction of the visibility of the navigation lights due to deck lighting."

    https://gcaptain.com/norway-releases...lision-report/

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Home UK Midlands / Boat Croatia
    Posts
    21,398

    Default Re: Dazzling the COLREGS

    I understand why a service boat like that would need powerful white lights when actually working at the windfarm or rig or whatever, but I agree with you then when on normal passage it should not use lights which are so bright that they overpower the navigation lights.

    Although I can't remember any specific Colregs rule which forbids this, I suspect that simply having navigation lights which are not visible at the prescribed distance is, in itself, a breach.

    I've had a similar experience with a large fishing factory boat and extremely bright spotlamps but they are working and not moving very fast so that's acceptable.

    Did the service boat transmit AIS and did you have a receiver? In such circumstances, AIS is worth its weight in gold.

    Richard
    Last edited by RichardS; 09-11-19 at 20:21.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Me Edinburgh, boat JWD
    Posts
    5,185

    Default Re: Dazzling the COLREGS

    I think, if you could make the effort, you would find Rule 20 (b).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Home UK Midlands / Boat Croatia
    Posts
    21,398

    Default Re: Dazzling the COLREGS

    Quote Originally Posted by awol View Post
    I think, if you could make the effort, you would find Rule 20 (b).
    I assume that you're addressing the OP rather than me so it's up to him whether he finds your observation extremely rude .... but, personally, I would be extremely surprised if any rule in Colregs disagrees with what I said.

    Richard

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Boat Orwell - Me Norwich
    Posts
    8,634

    Default Re: Dazzling the COLREGS

    Quote Originally Posted by awol View Post
    I think, if you could make the effort, you would find Rule 20 (b).

    Rule 20
    Application . . .

    (b). The Rules concerning lights shall be complied with from sunset to sunrise, and during such times no other lights shall be exhibited, except such lights as cannot be mistaken for the lights specified in these Rules or do not impair their visibility or distinctive character, or interfere with the keeping of a proper look-out.

    I had a difficult situation once crewing for an owner who wanted his forward facing floodlights on all night to increase the chances of spotting pot markers. I didn't find them much use for that, but was aware of the contradiction with the Colregs, and in particular concerned this was at the very least unhelpful and inconsiderate as we negotiated our way past a number of fishing vessels during the course of the voyage.
    LM Owners Association http://lmowners.proboards.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Essex
    Posts
    23,274

    Default Re: Dazzling the COLREGS

    I don't think that I have ever seen a ferry or passenger vessel that came near to obeying 20(b). Fortunately, they are large enough for ambiguity to be minimised. The most confusing lights I encountered was when we were in company with another yacht in the North Sea and a set of blinding lights including search lights sweeping the sea approached from the north. Our companions were able to pass ahead but I turned to pass astern. Only late and by good fortune did I see that it was a tug towing a VLCC, well behind and unlit.

    I know it isn't in the rules, but I think there is a moral obligation on any fast-moving vessel to treat itself as the give-way vessel when approaching a slow vessel. Even catamaran dinghies sometimes seem to think that a small cruiser can just hop aside.
    Far away is near at hand in images of elsewhere

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    Ramsgate
    Posts
    972

    Default Re: Dazzling the COLREGS

    Quote Originally Posted by johnalison View Post
    ..

    I know it isn't in the rules, but I think there is a moral obligation on any fast-moving vessel to treat itself as the give-way vessel when approaching a slow vessel...
    The Rules do already oblige vessels to go at a 'safe speed' and of course there are overtaking obligations, but that is an interesting discussion point.
    "Now shall the gentleman haul and draw with the mariner"
    John Hawkins

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    East coast UK. Mostly. Sometimes the Philippines
    Posts
    10,445

    Default Re: Dazzling the COLREGS

    Quote Originally Posted by johnalison View Post
    I don't think that I have ever seen a ferry or passenger vessel that came near to obeying 20(b). Fortunately, they are large enough for ambiguity to be minimised. The most confusing lights I encountered was when we were in company with another yacht in the North Sea and a set of blinding lights including search lights sweeping the sea approached from the north. Our companions were able to pass ahead but I turned to pass astern. Only late and by good fortune did I see that it was a tug towing a VLCC, well behind and unlit.

    I know it isn't in the rules, but I think there is a moral obligation on any fast-moving vessel to treat itself as the give-way vessel when approaching a slow vessel. Even catamaran dinghies sometimes seem to think that a small cruiser can just hop aside.
    I am thinking back over decades, but in my experience the usual procedure for a tug towing a large tanker is to show the appropriate lights for a tug over 50 metres with a tow over 200 metres, to inform the Coastguard who will include a warning in their VHF broadcasts and to shine the tug’s searchlight in the direction of the tow, which would herself be carrying a riding crew and would be lit. The reason for the searchlight is to indicate the sheer taken by the tow, which is most unlikely to be astern of the tug, and can be almost abeam of the tug.
    Last edited by Kukri; 09-11-19 at 19:20.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Essex
    Posts
    23,274

    Default Re: Dazzling the COLREGS

    Quote Originally Posted by Kukri View Post
    I am thinking back over decades, but in my experience the usual procedure for a tug towing a large tanker is to show the appropriate lights for a tug over 50 metres with a tow over 200 metres, to inform the Coastguard who will include a warning in their VHF broadcasts and to shine the tug’s searchlight in the direction of the tow, which would herself be carrying a riding crew and would be lit. The reason for the searchlight is to indicate the sheer taken by the tow, which is most unlikely to be astern of the tug, and can be almost abeam of the tug.
    That would be in the ideal world, which seldom exists. In my case, the tow was half a mile astern and unlit. I have no idea what other lights the tug was showing because I was blinded by all the others. It was many years ago.
    Far away is near at hand in images of elsewhere

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Fareham
    Posts
    6,688

    Default Re: Dazzling the COLREGS

    Almost exactly the same thing happened to me many years ago on my Yachtmaster exam. Coming down the Medina River before dawn I thought the bright lights were floodlights on one of the wharves but realised very late that they were "headlamps" on the Blade Runner barge. (A bit of a wind energy theme?). I took rapid avoiding action then the examiner said, "What could we have done differently there?".

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