2.6 UNDOCKING OPERATIONS
A tanker leaving the berth for sea is exposed to numerous hazards.
The activities of the departure must be carefully planned. The special
watch conditions and procedutes required by the owner's operating procedures
must be followed explicitly.
2.6.1 The master - pilot consultation The order of casting off mooring lines.
When the ship is ready to proceed from the berth, a listening watch
must be maintained on the port pilot frequency until the pilot arrives
on board. The tanker should be in all respects ready to proceed to sea
when the pilot arrives. As soon as he has embarked, the deck gang will
recover the gangway, secure it, and go to their un-docking stations.
The pilot or master will request permission of the harbour control authority
to undock his ship, and/or will notify any vessel advisory service of
the intention to do so.
When the master has confirmed that the pilot is ready to undock his
ship, the forward and aft officers are advised and the order to 'stand
by engines' is given. Meanwhile the master must consult with the pilot
to determine the latest conditions in the port, advise the pilot of
the particular characteristics of the ship (using the ship's information
card, section 5.8.2 of this handbook),
and discusses in detail the procedure to be used for un-docking and
departing. This discussion should touch on:
Number of tugs to be used and where they will be secured.
Whether the vessel turns to port or to starboard when backing.
Readiness of the anchors; procedures for letting go.
Procedure for turning the ship.
Speed to be used in the sections of the port.
That speed is to be regulated and/or communications employed to avoid
meeting other vessels at bends or turns in the channel.
Whether master is willing to overtake other vessels or to be overtaken
in the channel.
That all required sound signals will be made, regardless of radio communications.
Competence of the wheelsman.
An expression of the master's intention to confine conversation to the
business of the ship.
Procedures for disembarking the pilot.
The number of tugs used is at the master's discretion, barring a port
regulatory requirement. He may employ either more or less tugs than
the pilot advises, according to his evaluation of the conditions and
his knowledge of how his ship will handle. If extra tugs, above the
norm, are used, the master should note in the log his reasons for doing
this, to support the additional costs, which may be for a charterer's
The master must bear in mind, and express firmly but politely to the
pilot that he is employed as an important advisor to the master, that
the master retains the command of the ship at all times, and that the
departure must be conducted in accordance with the master's wishes.
If the pilot questions these intentions, or indicates an unwillingness
to follow them, he should be instructed to return ashore and another
The master must be ready to countermand any wheel or engine order by
the pilot and take over the conn of the vessel at any time, if the pilot
does not act on the master's counsel. He must bear in mind that it is
better to do this earlier rather than later, after the ship is in imminent
peril. The master and his officers must discretely observe the pilot
and carefully evaluate his professional performance. Even when being
conned by a pilot of obvious competence, it remains the responsibility
of the watch officer to insure that the vessel is safely navigated.
The ports of the world all contain one or more pilots for whom some
urgent personal business occasionally becomes more important then the
safety of the ship. If the master has left the bridge while under pilotage,
he should be called back whenever the watch officer feels that excessive
speed has been ordered by the pilot or that a dangerous meeting or overtaking
situation is developing. None of these comments are intended to demean
or detract from the importance or value of qualified and professional
pilots, but only to remind officers that as with all professions, they
will find a full range of piloting competence in the ports where tankers
When the vessel is safely embarked from the port the master should express
his satisfaction clearly to the pilot. A record of the performance of
the pilot is a useful entry in a deck officer's notebook, particularly
if they have been inattentive, unskilled, or uncooperative.
2.6.2 Making up tugs; casting off
The tugs will normally present themselves alongside according to radio
instructions from the pilot. Each deck officer will advise the Bridge
of the name of each tug when it comes alongside. The deck crew should
lead the mooring lines to the bitts indicated by the tug's master. At
least two men should be used to take the tug lines: one to heave in
the line using the messenger and the second to turn the eye of the line
onto the bitts. After the tugs are made fast, the deck officer will
again communicate the time the tug is made fast, the location of the
tug alongside, and the number of lines used. At least one man must attend
each tug in case it needs to be quickly released.
Each deck officer should check that he has the necessary complement
of seamen for the un-docking operation, and advise them how the operation
will be conducted. The steadiest man should be appointed to operate
the winch. The officer should review the hand signals to be used, and
verify that the sound-powered telephone set at each un-docking station
The un-docking operation presents numerous opportunities for personal
injury. During the un-docking operation, mooring or tug lines may be
under heavy strain. Each line must be carefully examined before it is
released, and if a mooring line made up on bitts is found to be under
heavy strain, the master should be advised that the line is too tight
to slack off. Even releasing the winch brake on a winch-stowed wire
or fibre line under heavy strain can produce a violent reaction.
Personnel must be careful to keep clear of the path a line is likely
to follow if it parts. Required personal protective equipment must be
worn. Deck officers must insure that shore personnel are clear of a
line before it is paid out. Wire mooring cables can cause severe injuries
if slacked suddenly onto line handlers standing below them. Winches
must be run at moderate speed when retrieving lines which have been
cast off. Retrieved lines must be cleared away from winch-heads before
handling the next line.
In some cases, the master will hold one mooring line to assist the turning
of the ship off the dock. If this is done, all personnel must clear
the area of the line in case it parts. When the order is given to let
this last line go the pilot or master must handle the ship to create
enough slack for it to be released.
When the last mooring line is aboard the master is informed. Crew members
are assigned to stand by the anchors, and by each tug. If sufficient
deck crew remain they may begin stowing lines and otherwise securing
the ship for sea. The master is informed when each tug is clear and
when all lines and berthing gear are secured.
2.6.3 Disembarking the pilot
Because of the freeboard of the ballasted tanker, the pilot will normally
use the accommodation ladder to disembark. This ladder must meet the
requirements of SOLAS, Chapter V, Regulation 17. A boatswain or able
seaman must be detailed to operate the accommodation ladder lift - never
an ordinary seaman. The pilot should be escorted from the bridge to
the main deck by an officer. In most cases, this should not be the watch
officer, who should remain on the bridge to provide navigational and
collision avoidance support to the master while the pilot disembarks.
The officer must inspect the pilot ladder or accommodation ladder before
permitting the pilot to use it. One man is assigned to stand by with
a ring buoy while a second lowers the pilot's valise. The master should
have clearly in his mind the orders he will give if the pilot should
fall into the sea while disembarking.
As soon as the pilot is safely away, the officer on deck informs the
master. The officer who disembarked the pilot should then be assigned
to make a tour of the main deck of the vessel to ensure that all is
properly secured for sea. This will include a look at the main deck
accommodation doors, the deck locker and pumproom doors, the manifold
area and drip trough, the anchors, mooring line scuttles, gangway and
any other fixture or piece of equipment which has been left adrift.
This tour of inspection is an opportunity for a junior officer to develop
a 'critical eye'. Each object that falls within his sight should be
looked at with the question: Is this as it should be?'. As this important
critical ability is developed, a junior officer will be surprised by
the number of things he can find that are not 'as they should be'. Those
conditions that can be corrected with a moment's effort should be corrected
by the officer. He should make a note in his deck book of those which
will require the attentions of the crew and report these to the chief
officer. When he has completed his inspection and advised the chief
officer of any problems, he may secure from his departure duties.