Collision

Technical evidence from for example VDR, VTS, GPS, RADAR, ECDIS and machinery/engine control systems has become increasingly important. This evidence can be lost if it is not properly saved. The vessel should have pre-planned procedures for saving such data. If not, the manufacturer should be contacted immediately. However, it is still important that the crew witnessing a collision write down their observations as soon as possible. This should be done prior to discussing with other crew members. 

The Master should make sure the following is properly noted:

  1. The exact time of the collision. In this connection it must be checked whether the clocks on the bridge and in the engine room are synchronised. Any differences must be noted.
  2. The vessel’s position, course, speed and propeller revolutions at the moment of the collision. Make note of what the course and speed recorders show at the moment of the collision.
  3. Exact points of time and description of the various rudder and engine manoeuvres immediately before and after the collision.
  4. An assessment of the visibility and weather conditions with a note of when and where signals were seen or heard.
  5. Observed manoeuvres of the other vessel before the collision. Calculations of CPA and TCPA. 
  6. Estimate the angle of the blow, as well as the course and speed of the colliding vessel at the time of contact.
  7. Any communication with the other vessel, either on VHF, sound, shape or light signals, etc.
  8. Vessels in the vicinity that may have witnessed the collision should be noted. 

The Owners must be informed of the occurrence as soon as possible after the collision. At the same time, give information about the weather conditions, damage to both vessels and the other vessel’s name and nationality. Limit the report to facts without referring to the question of liability, as all correspondence with the Owners must be produced in Court if demanded by Opponents (discovery documents). 

Only when the vessel’s officers and crew members have had the opportunity to report to the Master what they have seen in connection with the collision should the actual sequence of events be described in the vessel’s logbooks. The description should be written by the person in charge on the bridge at the moment of the collision and approved by the Master. 

In the majority of collision cases it may be necessary to appoint a solicitor to look after the vessel’s interests. The solicitor’s first task is to support the Master. When the vessel has reached a port, he will go on board to take statements from the witnesses. No one on board must express any opinion about the collision to outside parties or reply to questions from persons other than the solicitor instructed by the Owners or the Leading Underwriter. 

If possible and if the circumstances so indicate, the Master should obtain an admission of liability from the colliding vessel, or at least have the Master of the other vessel sign the Collision Letter Form below or your company’s form for ”As Receipt Only”.

In case of a collision or striking in which a third party has sustained damages, the representative of the Leading Underwriter should be requested for survey and assistance. Liabilities to a third party due to causes other than collision and striking concerns the vessel’s P&I Underwriters.

After a collision it is of utmost importance to have strict control of the persons who board the vessel, and to deny unauthorised persons access to it. As previously stated it is common after a collision to arrange joint surveys with a surveyor who represents the other vessel. The surveyor should be allowed access only to the damaged area, and must be escorted at all times. During joint surveys the surveyor representing the other vessel shall not enter any other part of the vessel than what is strictly necessary to access the damaged area. 

Information control is important. This has become increasingly difficult now that most crew members have their own mobile phone and access to e-mail. Managers should have pre-planned measures for their vessel to control information after a collision.