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The smooth departure of a tanker from the unloading port requires as much planning as any other vessel movement. Each officer and crew member has a part to play to undock the ship safely and leave the port without incident.

2.5.1 Sailing time
The chief officer will have posted a provisional sailing time shortly after arrival at the unloading dock. When the progress of the cargo discharge permits a better estimate of sailing time, the chief officer will advise the master, who will authorise the posting of the revised time. This should be done six hours ahead of the previous or new sailing time (whichever is earlier). Enter the original sailing board posting and all changes to the sailing time in the deck log book. Normally the crew is required to be on board at least one hour prior to un-docking.
In each port various authorities require certain advance notification of a vessel's departure. It is convenient to make all required notifications after calling the organization requiring the greatest advance notice. The master or other officer will call each agency and provide the name of the vessel, the berth, and the departure date and time. Calls may be made to the:

  • Ship's agent.

  • Customs and immigration authorities.

  • Coast Guard.

  • Pilot dispatch office.

  • Vessel traffic control/information centre.

  • Oil terminal scheduling office.

  • Harbour master.

  • Any crew member who has left a request to be called.
  • In most cases the ship's agent will make all necessary arrangements on behalf of the ship after they have been notified. If a ship's officer makes the call(s), he should obtain and record the name of the person who received the notification at each office and the time it was given. The level of service provided by the agent in this and all other matters should be noted, and a summary report of his performance submitted by the master to owners and charterers after the vessel's departure.
    When calling the pilot office, ask if the pilot will arrive by shore transport or by boat. If by boat, advise the chief officer so that the pilot ladder or accommodation ladder, can be readied.
    If the sailing board needs to be changed after these calls have been made (due to pilots or tugs not being available until a later time), each organization must again be notified of the new sailing time. If the master is ashore, don't forget to call him as well!

    2.5.2 Crew check
    Every ship should be ready in all respects before departing for sea, and the most important aspect of those preparations is having a complete crew on board. One hour before departure, a deck officer will be assigned to check that the crew is complete. Usually he assigns one person from each department to verify that all members of that department are on board. If a crew member is noted as missing, the master is notified immediately. The master must then decide if the ship can proceed without the missing individual. A ship cannot sail without its radio officer, but almost any other position can be covered by qualified personnel standing extended watches. If the master decides that it is safe to proceed he may do so, providing he submits a report of the incident, including his statement of how the vessel was suitably manned.
    During the crew check, each crew member must be positively seen and identified by the person making the crew check. It also does no harm to wake them enough to get a reply. At least one tanker has gone to sea at night with the radio officer apparently sound asleep in his bunk, only to find the next morning that he was dead!
    As all the crew should be on board at the appointed time, there will occasionally be a returning crew member who will arrive at the gangway having drunk not wisely but too well while ashore. Intoxicated crew members are a menace to the ship, whether they reach that state from drinking on board or ashore. A crew member in a state of extreme intoxication must be denied access to the ship until the master has seen him. He may then be sent ashore in the agent's care, or placed in his quarters under continuous observation to ensure that he does not develop a life-threatening condition and die unaided. Appropriate disciplinary measures can wait until the defaulter has recovered. It is the responsibility of each department head to see that his personnel on watch during departure are sufficiently rested to safely perform their duties.

    2.5.3 Stowaway and contraband search
    In any port where stowaways and/or contraband may be smuggled aboard the ship, a thorough search of the vessel must be made before departure. While stowaways can be a nuisance to the master and owners, the greater problem is smuggling of drugs. Penalties for transportation of drugs into a US port can include millions of US dollars in fines against the owner/master and forfeiture of the ship unless it can be proven that 'neither the owner, operator, charterer, master or pilot nor any other employee responsible for maintaining and insuring the accuracy of the cargo manifest knew, or by the exercise of the highest degree of care and diligence could have known, that such merchandise was on board'. Other countries, including Colombia, have similar statutes.
    The contraband/stowaway search must be made by an officer, or under the direct supervision of an officer. At the end of the search an entry is made in the log indicating the spaces searched, the fact that the search was diligent, and that the spaces were found to be apparently free of contraband and/or stowaways. This kind of record is essential to defending against the seizure of the ship if contraband is subsequently found on board.
    If contraband is discovered, the agent should be notified immediately, along with the owners. The advice of the agent should be followed concerning notification of the authorities.
    If stowaways are found the master must be notified immediately. The stowaway(s) must be brought before the master, their papers examined, and information recorded. The harbour authorities and the agent must be notified, and the stowaways watched closely until they are put ashore for repatriation.
    Stowaways discovered after sailing must be fed and accommodated as the crew, but may not be assigned duties. They must be included in muster lists and participate in safety drills. The master and a company official/agent must supervise their disembarkation at the next port. The stowaway(s) must be prevented from escaping to shore at the arrival port, until they are turned over to the local authorities.

    2.5.4 Testing navigation equipment
    One hour before sailing time, the chief officer or master will instruct a deck officer to prepare the engines and navigating bridge for departure. Before proceeding to the bridge to call the engine room, the appointed officer conducts two important checks. He inspects the stern to see that the propeller area is clear of any obstruction, boats, or personnel, (such as contract painters painting the hull from floats). He then checks each mooring to ensure that the brakes are properly set, the lines are tight, and the ship is alongside the dock fore and aft.
    On the bridge, the officer calls the engine room and advises them that they may begin warming up the main engine, that the ship is scheduled to depart in (number of) minutes, that they should check the engine room crew (if they have not already done so), and that they should call the bridge when ready to test the steering engine. The chief engineer is the only crew member who can tell the Engineers to start the main engine.
    While the Engineers are preparing the machinery for operation, the deck officer inspects and makes ready all of the bridge equipment for departure. Using his officer's notebook (see section 1.6), as a guide, he will check the following:

  • Bridge-to-bridge VHF radio sets.

  • Radars and ARPA (first making sure that no-one is aloft).

  • Verify that the radar heading flasher alignment is correct.

  • Navigation lights, primary and secondary including 'not-under-command' lights and shapes.

  • Electronic navigation equipment - each set is turned on and diagnostic programs run (if available). A position, or line-of-position is obtained from each and verified against the position of the vessel in the port.

  • Echo depth sounder.

  • Doppler speed log (or other speed/distance recorder).
  • Wheelhouse port wipers and/or clear view screens.

  • Binoculars and gyro repeater azimuth/bearing circle.

  • Whistle (if port regulations permit).

  • Bridge clocks are verified against the chronometer(s).

  • Bridge and engine room clocks synchronised.

  • Gyro repeaters are checked/synchronised against the master gyro.

  • Gyro heading is verified against the magnetic compass heading.

  • Restart the course recorder and verify the correct time and course is shown. Write the port and date on the course recorder chart.

  • Start the engine order recorder and write the date and time on it.

  • Charts for the first part of the voyage are examined and the courses for the first 24 hours are verified.

  • Check that the bridge and chartroom emergency lighting batteries are properly charged.

  • Signalling lamp.

  • While doing this, the deck officer keeps one eye out for the arrival of the pilot, checks the main engine tachometer to insure that the engineers are not testing the engine at high revolutions, and puts out the binoculars, portable radios, bell book and prepares coffee.
    The tide for the time of departure is calculated, as well as the time of the following high and low waters, and the tidal currents for the period of departure.
    When the engineer is prepared to test the steering gear he will call from the steering engine room using the sound powered telephone. The steering system is first tested using one bridge steering system and one steering power unit. Wheel orders are compared closely against rudder response by the deck officer on the bridge, while the engineer observes the performance of the machinery and checks that the rudder achieves the same maximum angle as was ordered. The engineer then changes power units while the deck officer switches to the other steering control unit. The rudder is operated to both sides again with the same inspections. Finally the non-follow-up (NFU) unit is tested. When the tests of the steering controls are complete, the steering alarm systems are tested to confirm that any failure will be immediately known on the navigating bridge. Once each month the crew must be exercised at emergency steering stations, including use of emergency power supplies and operation of steering controls-from within the steering engine room. The ship must be steered according to orders communicated (by sound-powered phone or other means) from the bridge.
    When the engineer returns to the engine room, the engine order telegraph is tested in all positions. If the ship had an automatic bell logger, check the logging tape after testing the telegraph and verify that the date and time are correct and that the correct engine orders were punched. Initial the bell log record.
    When the tests are completed, the results are recorded in the logbook, indicating the time, the equipment tested, and the fact that all was found 'in apparent good order'. The entry should include a statement that 'all navigational aids necessary for the voyage are on board and updated to the latest available Notices to mariners. If any item of propulsion control or navigation equipment is found defective, the master must be informed immediately so that he can review the situation. If it is a vital instrument or component, the vessel's departure will be deferred until the repair can be completed (although he ship may to undock and anchor while awaiting repair).

    2.5.5 Embarking the pilot
    After the equipment checks are complete, contact the chief officer and determine the vessel's departure draft. Enter the draft in the log book and record it on the pilot's information sheet. Maintain a lookout for the arrival of the pilot and ensure that the gangway or accommodation ladder is manned to receive him and escort him to the navigating bridge. Inform the master of the pilot's arrival. Ask the pilot to confirm the un-docking time (in case he has recent information of a delay to await tugs, line handlers, traffic, etc.), and pass this information on to the master and chief officer. Give the pilot the sheet containing the vessel manoeuvring information so he can examine it while final un-docking preparations are completed. Record the pilot's name and the time of his embarkation in the bell book.

    2.5.6 Main deck preparations
    During the ballasting operation, the main deck is prepared for getting under way. Cargo hoses or arms are disconnected and the ship's manifold blanks are installed. The manifold containment trough under the manifold must be properly transferred to the slop tank or another cargo tank. The manifold containment trough should be covered with a rain tarp to prevent it from filling with spray or rain and washing any oil residues overboard.

    Cargo hose derricks/cranes must be returned to their cradles and secured. All other loose gear should be properly secured in store rooms or lashed to the deck. If stores have been delivered on board but not stowed, these must be secured by lashings or netting if the ship is proceeding directly to sea. The lashings or securing must be sufficient to withstand the severest rolling the ship could possibly encounter for the time of year and route to be followed. Take care to see that engineering stores left on deck are properly secured. Many valuable drums of lube oil and diesel fuel have been found missing on deck the morning after a night time departure because this was not done!
    The departure checklist should be completed and signed by the officers completing the preparations.
    The deck mooring winches should be run to verify proper operation. When all equipment is confirmed ready, the officer on the bridge must be advised that the deck is prepared for proceeding to sea. The crew may be turned to preparing tank washing equipment for the ballast voyage.
    The pumpman should be assigned to pump out any residue in the pumproom bilges, transferring them to the slop tank. Any open hatches or exterior water-tight doors must be closed and dogged, particularly those which are listed in the vessel's stability booklet or which could otherwise cause down-flooding in the event the vessel is damaged.

    Case study
    The subject motor tanker discharged a full cargo of No.6 oil at a terminal in Long Island Sound and departed for another US loading port. When she arrived, there were heavy oil stains on her hull. Two days following her departure, heavy oil fouling was found on the beaches of the north shore of Long Island, New York. Several miles of beach were affected. US Coast Guard tests found the oil on shore and the oil stains on the ship to be of the same kind. An investigation revealed that the ship had sailed with 28 barrels of oil in her manifold containment troughs. Due to heavy rolling while transiting Long Island Sound, the oil was lost overboard. The cost of the clean up was USD 450,000, which the owner of the ship was required to pay.
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