Respond to Emergencies


Action - Collision & Grounding

Precautions to be Taken When Beaching a Vessel

Beaching a vessel requires consideration of the nature of the coastline on which the ship would be beached. Beaching is deliberate grounding of the vessel in such a way that repairs may be carried out. Beaching arises out of the fact the vessel has been holed or some compartment is taking in water and the next port is far enough for the vessel to continue on her voyage.

The large-scale chart of the area is studied for a suitable spot – preference should be for a gently shelving beach of mud, sand or gravel. The tide tables are to be checked if the tidal range is substantial then the falling tide should be chosen about an hour after high water. The ship should prepare her ballast tanks such that only half of the full ballast is taken in. It would be preferable to have only about a metre trim. This would ensure that the ship would take bottom for more than the entire half-length. The rudder and propeller area being spared.

A boat with sounding lead and communication unit should precede the ship sounding all the way, by dragging a weighted wire bight astern. Two boats would be more helpful.

The ship should follow very slowly, sounding the bottom continuously on each bow. Once the depth of the water is nearly the same as the draught the engines if running should be stopped and the ship allowed to drift to make contact with the seabed. Once contact is made the ship would swing slowly to lie nearly parallel to the shoreline.

All the tanks should be sounded to find out if any bottom damage has taken place in addition to the one already existing if any.

The ballast tanks should now be completely ballasted. This would ensure that the ship would sit firmly on the seabed.

The ship may be now moored to the coastline by fixing mooring line to nearby trees. If trees are absent then stout poles may be buried in the land and the ship moored to them.

Actions to be taken on Stranding

The following is from an accident analysis:

After the grounding (on deck)

At 1735 hours, when the vessel went aground the engines were still going full ahead, as there had been no time to stop them. On running aground the engines were stopped.

At 1736 hours were put full astern. Between 1736 hours and 1913 hours the engines were used to try and bring the vessel off the reef but by 1913 hours, all efforts proving fruitless, the attempts ceased.

A general alarm should have been sounded and the sea suctions should be have been changed over to high.

The soundings of all tanks should be initiated. Only if the tanks are not breached only then should the following be done.

This was stated in the enquiry report:

“The engines were run astern intermittently between 1736 hours and 1913 hours, without a full assessment of the damage to the vessel being made. This action may have increased the damage to the hull and, in the worst case, if the ship had come off the reef, it may have sunk immediately

The Master told the Chief Officer to sound all tanks and by 1745 hours it was discovered that the following tanks were breached

Fore Peak Tank Deep Tank Port and Starboard (prior to the grounding this tank held 1 Tonne of Fuel Oil)

No. 1 Double Bottom Port and Starboard

No. 1 bilges indicating that water was entering No. 1 hold.

At 1830 hours, the water depth around the ship was sounded with the results shown below. This indicated that the vessel was hard aground from the stem to the after end of No. 2 Hatch.



The draught of the vessel above was Fwd - 13.6m and Aft - 13.7M


The Master had broadcast an Urgency Message at 1753 hours on 26 April 1986 and upgraded to a Distress Message at 1914 hours, because the engine room bilges were flooding and the ships pumps were not coping with the ingress of water.

The crew were kept standing by the life boats at the embarkation deck until the water level in the engine room bilges was controlled.

Procedure for Abandoning Ship

Abandoning ship is a decision which has to be taken by the Master after due consideration weighing all the options.

Since the ship is the best lifeboat there is, to abandon this and proceed to life boats and rafts is a courageous decision. However the ship may in imminent danger of sinking or being a burnt out hulk as such, such a decision has to be made.

The distress calls should have been made well before the abandon ship order has been given, the signals would have been initially an urgency signal followed by the distress signal.

The signal for distress should have been made by all available means including the following:

DSC – VHF, MF and HF


EPIRB – manual mode

Initially the Urgency signal with the following text should be sent by DSC as well as by R/T


PAN  PAN         PAN PAN      PAN PAN














The distress message should if the need arise be transmitted by all available means as mentioned above, over the R/T should contain the following:

R/T Distress Call:




R/T Distress Message:







(Master’ intention, cargo, weather, time of abandonment, number and type of survival craft, number of persons abandoning/staying on board, details of location aids in survival craft or sea)

However before abandon ship order is received the boats are to be provisioned in excess of the amount already in place. Provisions such as sweets – chocolates – biscuits – and other high calorie foods may be taken in preference to meat and other such provisions.

On receiving the abandon ship signal an orderly embarkation would cause little panic and the resultant injury.

On casting off from the ship the boats should move a distance away from the ship and remain altogether. This would ensure that when rescue ships/ aircraft reach the last position of the abandoned vessel they would be able to sight the survivors easily. The EPIRB if possible should be taken on the boat.

The SART should be placed on a high point maybe at the end of a boat hook and lashed in place. The Radar reflectors should be assembled and erected again on a high point.

It would be advantageous to connect all the boats and rafts by a rope so that the drift of the boats and rafts are similar.

If the abandoning is close to shore then an attempt may be made to land ashore provided that the shore is suitable for landing.

The sight of rollers would indicate the slope of the coast and the success of the landing. If the rollers were in multiple lines then the slope would in general be sloping quite a bit. Single lines would indicate a sharp slope.

The LB W/T should be used with care since the battery would be discharged with too many transmissions – in the reception mode the battery would last a considerable time.

The breeches buoy:

This is a contraption for the removal of persons from a disabled ship.

It consists of a Life buoy which has a flat piece of good quality canvas sewn to it to act as the saddle. The life buoy is hung from a rope to be used for heaving with at least 4 ropes at each diagonal end of the life buoy.

The initial line may be sent from the rescue ship to the disabled ship by using a rocket line throwing apparatus. Once the line has been received the rescue ship would attach a block through which a strong rope (the Whip rope) has been reeved in (this rope presently has no use and the ropes would be very slack and no attempt must be to haul on this rope (pair since it is reeved through the block).

The rocket line is to be hauled away until this block is on board, when the rocket line is to be discarded.

The block would now be attached to a mast. Once the block is fast, the rescue ship would attach a still stronger rope (small diameter hawser lay rope) to the rope passing through the block and once this is brought on board the disabled ship it is made fast to the mast above the whip rope block.

Once the hawser is fast the rescue ship would heave it tight and make fast. Adjusting as required if the ships fail to maintain their distance.

The breeches buoy is now rove in through the hawser and a steadying line is attached to prevent the swing of the buoy.

The traveling rope is now pulled from the rescue ship, which enables the buoy to move to the disabled ship. Persons may now embark on the buoy and again be pulled to the rescue ship.

Launching a life boat when the ship is listing or listed heavily

Listed Side LB

There would not be much of a problem in launching this LB since the falls would clear the ship. The only precaution would be to see that the bowsing tackles and the tricing pendant are fixed and that the tricing pendant ropes are not worn out.

Once the boat is lowered the tricing pendant would take the weight. There would be enormous weight on the tricing pendant and thus the need to have new ropes on the tricing pendant.

Once the boat is held by the tricing pendant; the bowsing tackle should be fixed and the boat hove alongside and the tricing pendant cast off.

People would board the boat.

Once the boat is ready with provisions the bowsing tackles would be eased off until the boat is vertically under the fall blocks, when the bowsing tackles would be unshipped. And the boat lowered. Just above the water level the engine should be started and then on touching the water surface the plugs should be checked and the slack on the toggle painter slack taken in.

The boat should now be lowered and the blocks cast off and the painter should be slackened and the boat allowed to drift away. Once the ropes are clear of the propeller the LB may station itself at a distance away from the ship.

LB on opposite side of the list:

In this case the LB would tend to be lowered within the ship thus it would have to be shoved out. In this case the reverse ends of the boat hooks should be got ready.

Once the tricing pendants are removed and the people board the boat is to be shoved out and the boat hooks would be used for this purpose.

Once the LB has cleared the deck the permanent fender fixed to the boat would be sliding as the LB is lowered against the shipside.

As the LB reaches the water level the LB would tend to go under the curvature of the ship, the boat hooks again have to be used to prevent this from happening until the fall bocks have been released.

Once the LB is free the LB may fall back and move away to take up a position at a distance away from the ship.


For launching of LR on the side of the list is as normal. For the LR launched on the side opposite to the list the difficulty arises due to the LR going and settling under the curvature of the ship. For this the painter/ pulling cord is to be transferred to the fore end of the ship thus the LR would be positioned alongside the ship until boarded and cast off.

Use of Oil to quell the sea

The use of oil to quell a sea with breaking waves in the open sea is effective, however for breakers along a coast the same is in effective.

Vegetable or fish oil is the most effective due to the moderate viscosity. Lubricating oil is also to a certain point effective – but heavy mineral oils such as fuel oil and marine diesel oil is not very effective. Product mineral oils such as kerosene are too low in viscosity as well have a tendency to vapourize too quickly to be effective.

Note should be made that oil is a pollutant and indiscriminate use should be avoided. If persons are in the water then their recovery would also be hampered, though the handling of lifeboats would be much easier.

Launching of boats and life rafts in heavy weather

In heavy weather the launching of LB as well as LR’s are very difficult. For life rafts the danger is that the liferaft after inflating produces such a heavy drag on the painter/ inflating line that it may part – in many emergencies this has actually happened. With this the liferaft is of no use since it would drift away. As such it may be prudent to carry the liferaft to the lowest deck before tossing it into the sea on the lee side. This would prevent the painter parting.

For life boats the tossing of the waves would make the lifeboat fall blocks a dangerous object which would endanger the entire boat if only one block is disengaged or it could lead to head injuries to the person unhooking the block.

The best method would be to cast from inside the LB if the arrangement exists and then moving away from under the swinging blocks.

Another method that could be used is to lower the LB to just above the water level and then to pass a stout rope around the falls (both) from the lowest deck and then heaving on this rope to bring the boat as much to the side of the ship as possible, this in turn would stop the LB swinging, since the falls would be arrested in their pendulum action to the lower deck from the davit head.

Before lowering into the water it would help if an amount of oil is dispersed over the water from midship of the ship – so that the water near the area of the LB would be quelled.

The engines being started prior to lowering in the water, the gear should be engaged as soon as the LB is in the water. With extra slack on the falls the blocks should be disconnected and until they are removed the LB should try and maintain station with the help of engines and the painter and boat hooks. It is important that the final lowering of the LB to the water the person lifting the counterweight at the davits keeps it up so that some extra length of the falls is lowered. If the counterweight is lowered gingerly then not much slack would come out.

Use of Auxiliary Steering Gear and the Rigging and Use of Jury Steering Arrangements



Procedure for Operation of Steering Gear on Loss of Remote Bridge Control

Failure of steering may due to one of the following:


a) On loss of steering gear control from the bridge, establish communication with the bridge via the telephone system. A telephone is located on the steering gear compartment platform. Indication of the rudder angle and a compass repeater are provided for manual control of the steering gear.

b) Turn 'local/remote' control switch to local control. This switch is on the RUDDER SERVO UNIT panel for each steering gear motor.

c) Operate the push buttons 'Port' or 'Starboard' to run the steeling
gear in the direction requested by the bridge.

If the local remote control in steering gear room should fail, manual operation can be carried out as follows:

a) Switch off the torque motor power.     

b) Push in the 'unloading valve' button and screw lock in place. 


c) The tiller can be moved in accordance with the steering command
from the bridge (via telephone in the steering gear room) by turning the torque motor shaft knob.

The pumps and associated equipment are operated as normal

Securing the rudder in the event of a broken rudder stock

In the event that the rudder stock is cracked or such, a jury steering may be made with a small linked chain.

If the ship is deep drafted then of course the possibility does not arise but if the rudder stock is just below the water surface then the vessel may be trimmed by the head to lift the top of the rudder above the water level.

A boat would now be used to go astern and the chain would be passed around the rudder and a shackle may be used to form a eye through which the chains would be passed. The ends of the chain would be taken to either side of the stern and attached to wires which would be taken on the winches port and starboard.

Provided the sea is not too rough the ship may be steered by heaving on one winch and paying out on the other.

Although the method may not be suitable for large tankers and such, for smaller vessels this could provide an effective steering mechanism.

If any eyes on the rudder are visible after trimming the vessel then the chains may be passed through them.

In case the rudder is totally lost then time permitting on a small vessel provided with derricks – a small derrick may be un shipped and the goose neck modified to fit in the upper gudgeon.

The derrick would have to have a couple of plates welded or bolted to the head and the space between the plates filled with wooden planks and bolted to make a solid surface.

Eyes would have to be made on the metal plates to reeve in wires for steering.

After the vessel is trimmed by the head and the upper gudgeon is visible the derrick may be lowered from the stern and a boat would have to go under and fit the goose neck. Once shipped the weight of the derrick would have to be retained by the block arrangement that had been used to lower the derrick.

Steering would be done by heaving on the wires (rove in through the eyes in the plates) on either side by the winches.


In case the above is impracticable then drags would have to be produced which would steer the ship.

One method would be to construct large surface area boards – table tennis tables or rope pallets joined together –weighted at the lower end suitable and the same hung off from the derricks on either side. Steering would be done by alternately lowering and raising the drags.