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This chapter examines the type of evidence required where the ship has been involved in a collision. It is likely that in the aftermath of a collision, lawyers and surveyors acting for owners and their insurers will come aboard the vessel and play an active role in gathering evidence necessary to bring or defend claims for damage. However, they will rely heavily on the Master and the crew to provide much of the evidence.

This chapter deals ‑with the following:‑

Evidence required prior to a collision ‑

Working charts,

Movement books;

Evidence required after a collision ‑


Vessel under pilotage or in congested waters,

Vessel moored or anchored;

Involvement of lawyers.

In the appendix to this chapter checklists and a case history are provided. The reader should also refer to chapters 7 and 8 in the event that salvage services are required or a general average incident occurs as a result of the collision.

Evidence prior to a collision

Evidence recording the daily routine of the vessel will be crucial in determining how and why a collision occurred. This type of evidence will include copies of the vessel's rough log books. It is imperative, therefore, that all sections of the log book are completed fully and accurately at all times (refer to part 11 of the introduction). Sounding records are also likely to be important.

Working charts and movement books are two items of evidence which have particular relevance in collision investigations.

Working Charts

The Master should ensure that chart positions are left precisely as plotted and that positions which do not match others are not erased. As a large number of collisions occur under pilotage or in congested waters, the Master also should ensure that the general practice of marking charts while on passage is continued while the vessel is under pilotage. Particular care should be taken to plot the vessel's 1,9,9,atiw on the

chart, for example, by indicating the distances abeam off buoys.

Movement Books

The Master should ensure that movement books are kept in ink and that any alterations are made in ink, signed, and dated by the person making the alterations. The material deleted should be scored out with a single line leaving the writing underneath legible. The use of correction fluid should not be permitted.

The Master should also ensure that times are recorded as accurately as possible. Finally, he should ensure that printer outputs from telegraph recorders and the engine room are retained as part of the movement book.

Evidence after a Collision


If possible, the Master and the crew should collect, record, and preserve as much detail of the collision as they can immediately after an incident. Although a comprehensive list of the items of evidence required from the vessel is provided in the appendix to this chapter, the type of evidence discussed below is of particular importance. The Master should ensure that a note of the following is made:

The vessel's position at the time of the incident ‑

Every effort should be made to fix and confirm the position from more than one source;

The exact time of the collision ‑

The accuracy of the clocks on the bridge and in the engine room as well as the accuracy of automatic recorders such as course recorders, telegraph loggers, and data loggers should be verified. The personal watches of the members of the crew who witnessed the incident should be checked. If a reflective plotter was in use prior to a collision, the crew member operating the plotter should ensure that he has made a note (not on the screen) of any marks accompanied

by a time on the screen;

The heading of the vessel at the time of the collision ‑

It is important that the course recorder is marked in ink to indicate the time when the vessel collided, although care should be taken not to spoil the trace. If a course recorder is not available, the heading of the vessel should be determined by some other method which also should be recorded;

An estimate of the angle of blow by or to the other vessel;

An estimate the speed of each of the vessels at the time of the collision ‑

The estimates can be verified at a later date by other data such as photographs and logs;

Any alterations of course and speed prior to a collision ‑

If possible, this note should be verified by a second person or equipment recording.

In addition, the Master should ensure that all crew members on the bridge as well as other members of the crew who witnessed the incident, record their account of events which occurred prior to and after the incident. The Master also should ensure that any independent witnesses to the incident are identified. He should record the names of all the vessels in the vicinity and attempt to obtain the names and addresses of the operators and duty officers of these vessel by VHF.

Finally, the Master should ensure that any scraps of paper which have been disposed of in the waste paper basket on the bridge are retained as these may contain the key as to why and how a collision occurred.

Vessel under Pilotage or in Congested Waters

As stated above, many collisions take place when a vessel is under pilotage or in congested waters. In such cases, the actions of the person controlling the vessel immediately before the vessel was involved in a collision, are particularly relevant in determining the cause of the collision. The Master, in addition to gathering the evidence discussed in the preceding sections, should ensure that the watch keeper,

helmsman, the look‑out, and any other persons on the bridge at the time of the collision make a complete record of events. The pilot also should be requested to make a written account of the events before he leaves the vessel. A note should be made of the pilot's name, address, and telephone number.

The Master should record speed log readings and make a note of the state of the tide at the time of the collision. An estimate of tidal current is unlikely to be accurate, however, a note of the time of observed slack water will be useful when calculations are being made from tide tables. The Master should note that S.A.L. logs may be inaccurate in freshwater.

Vessel moored

It is generally the view that unless there is evidence that the moored or anchored vessel contributed in some way to the collision, the vessel underway is liable for the damage.

Regardless of whether the Master is on the colliding vessel, he should ensure the following information is obtained:

Whether or not the moored vessel or an adjacent vessel was testing her main engines in such a way as to contribute to the incident;

Whether or not the moorings on the moored vessel were defective, slack, or ineffective in any way;

An estimate of the tidal direction and strength;

The identity of witnesses on shore; and

Photographs of damage to own vessel, and if possible of the damage to the other vessel.

As many of the incidents which take place when the vessel is moored are minor incidents, the insurers of both vessels may not require a joint survey, but will rely heavily on the Master's evidence. It is important, therefore, that the Master's report of the incident gives a detailed record of the damage.

Involvement of Lawyers

As stated above, lawyers are likely to play a significant role in gathering evidence in the aftermath of a collision. While the investigating lawyers are likely to be appointed by the vessel's insurers and will not be directly representing the interests of the Master and crew, these interests do to a certain degree coincide with those of the insurers. Therefore, the lawyers may advise the Master and the crew of their legal position and if the circumstances merit it, recommend that the crew or their union appoint their own lawyers.

Finally, there is an understanding between lawyers that if they represent owners of another vessel, they will not question crew members of the opponent's vessel. Therefore, the Master should ensure that crew members identify any persons to whom they make statements.


Courses steered during four hours before collision (time, position, altered course to);

Weather conditions at time of collision:

a. Direction and force of wind,

b. Direction and height of sea,

c. Direction and height of swell,

d. Visibility,

e. Last weather forecast;

State of tide and currents;

Personnel on bridge at or immediately before collision;

Position fixing system(s) in use;

First observation of other vessel:

a. By what means,

b. Distance and bearing,

c. Lights and shapes observed,

d. Aspect,

e. Apparent course,

f. Time;

Course of own ship at time of first observation;

Speed of own ship at time of first observation;

Action taken by own vessel at time of first observation;

Subsequent observations:

a. Times,

b. Distance and bearing;

First vessel sighting:

a. Time,

b. Distance and bearing,

c. Lights observed,

d. Aspect,

e. Apparent course;

Steps taken to plot other vessel (e.g. reflection plot, formal plot);

Record of actions of both vessels including times up to the time of collision (including engine movement);

Sound signals made and when made;

Sound signals heard and when heard;

Details of any communications between vessels before collision;

Time of collision;

Position of collision (state how obtained);

Angle of contact between vessels (if possible take photographs or make a drawing);

Heading of own vessel at time of collision;

Heading of other vessel at time of collision;

Speed of other vessel at time of collision;

Description of movements of both vessels after collision;

Details of communications after collision;

Names of other vessels in vicinity when collision occurred;

Communications with other vessels in vicinity;

If vessel under pilotage, name, address, and telephone number of pilot see also the evidence listed in the section 'Vessel under Pilotage or in Congested Waters';

If the vessel is moored at the time of collision, see the evidence listed in the section 'Vessel Moored'.

In addition to the above information, the Master should ensure that:

All witnesses of the incident write an account of the collision and the events leading up to the


The practice of marking charts is continued while vessel is under pilotage, and chart positions are left precisely as plotted;

Recording telegraph printer output and other printer output from the engine room are retained as part of the movement book;

Accuracy of clocks on bridge and in engine room, as well as automatic recorders are verified;

Course recorder marked in ink to indicate collision;

A full photographic record of events is made;

Operator of reflective plotter makes note marks;

Scraps of paper on which course calculations may have been made are retained.

Finally, the Master should ensure that the following general information is noted: y

Details of vessel:

a. Name,

b. Nationality,

c. Port of registry,

d. Vessel's general description,

e. Radio equipment on board,

f. Vessel's complement (details of rank and qualifications),

g. Watchkeeping arrangements,

h. Navigational equipment on board;

Name and port of registry of other ship;

Date of collision;

Approximate area of collision;

Details of voyage:

a. From where to where was the vessel going,

b. Time of sailing,

c. Draughts on sailing (forward, mid, and aft),

d. Intended course to next port.


Case History

'A', the vessel involved in this incident, was a small sludge carrier. She collided with 'B', another vessel, in thick fog in the vicinity of a large United Kingdom pilot station (the reader should refer to the attached plots which were produced from evidence provided by the vessels involved in the incident).

At 0920 hours, 'W' adjusted her course to 273 degrees true on an outward leg of a run to dump sludge. Between 0930 hours and 0935 hours, an echo was observed on radar 10 degrees on starboard bow distance 2.7 miles just west of BR Lanby Buoy. 'W' and the echo both appeared to be heading for LF1 light float at the entrance of the main channel. The echo's bearing appeared constant during the next few minutes, and the Master made a number of small alterations of course to starboard amounting in total to 40 degrees. 'B' was first sighted 2.3 points on port bow at which time 'W' was heading about 313 degrees true. 'B' appeared to be heading at right angles to 'W' at a distance of about 3 cables. 'W' collided with 'B' at about 0945 hours in a position estimated to be 8 cables ESE of BR Lanby.

At 0916 hours 'B' was following a course of 112 BR Lanby 097 degrees true distance 4.5 miles reduced to half speed. At 0925, her course was altered to 095 degrees true to counteract set. At about 0940, an echo was observed 5 degrees on port bow distance 3 miles. A few minutes later, after speaking to the pilot on the VHF, the Master ordered her course to be adjusted to 102 degrees true to bring LF1 light float right ahead with speed reduced to slow check. The radar echo distance of 2 miles

was brought right ahead.

A crew member reported that the echo first moved from right ahead to 40 degrees on starboard bow closing to a distance of 4 cables. Soon after, 'W' was seen 50 degrees on starboard bow distance 3 cables. The wheel of 'B' was put hard a starboard, and the engines stopped and put full astern.

The collision occurred at 0943 hours according to a clock on 'B' as recorded by the chief officer . The Master of 'B' recorded the collision as taking place at 0944/0945 hours. The Master also estimated that at this time the BR buoy was at 50 degrees true distance 7 cables.

Although there were independent observers in the vicinity who were engaged in damage control exercises, the data provided by them did not appear to relate to this incident but to two other vessels passing close to one another. The evidence from 'W' and 'B' did not correlate, and the investigators of the collision had difficulty in ascertaining the cause of the incident.

The owners and insurers of 'W' were placed at a considerable disadvantage as 'W' could not produce certain items of crucial evidence, which included a working chart, a plot of 'B' as it approached ('B' also had not plotted 'W' as it approached), and a movement book. In addition, there were no automatic recording devices such as course recorders or data loggers, on board the vessel. As a result of the lack of evidence, 'A' was found to be primarily at fault in causing the loss, and her owners were responsible for the damage suffered to B'.

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