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Gard Guidance Masters GENERAL

The Master has the overriding authority and responsibility to make decisions with respect to safety and pollution prevention. The Master should therefore be in overall charge of decisions and should

  • immediately initiate a damage assessment
  • check the watertight integrity of the vessel, and
  • ensure the safety of the crew and passengers.

    Reversing the engines after a collision, but prior to an initial damage assessment, may have catastrophic results as one of the vessels may suddenly lose her buoyancy and sink. The Master is therefore advised to ascertain the extent to which the other vessel needs assistance before reversing the engines.

    After taking the steps outlined below, the Master should encourage all witnesses on his/her vessel to immediately record their observations and memories of the events leading up to the collision. The Master should encourage witnesses to give a true and accurate account of the circumstances, even if it is to the detriment of the vessel. Additionally, any photographs or video taken by crew members should be collected and retained. Suitable initiatives by crew members who have collected valuable evidence could be rewarded.

    As radar sets are not always provided with a data recorder, plotting sheets should be kept and/or sketches made of the radar observations prior to the collision by those having been on radar watch at the material time. A record of how the radar settings and data were used will also be helpful in reconstructing the course and proving that a proper radar watch was maintained at the time.

    A record of any VHF traffic between the vessels involved or with shore installations prior to the collision should be provided in writing to establish what information or warnings of manoeuvres were conveyed.

    If the vessel is equipped with ECDIS or other electronic sea charts, these should be stored as soon as possible, if this is not automatically done by the system.