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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
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:

  • The order of casting off mooring lines.

  • 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 account.
    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 pilot requested.
    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 call.
    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 is working.
    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.

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