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While the vessel is in the discharge port the master should receive the orders for the
next voyage. It is his duty to plan the route for the voyage to the next loading port in
accordance with the requirements of the owner, the charterer and good seamanship. The
basic requirements are safety, efficiency and economy. The main objective is safety of
the crew, vessel and cargo. The ship must be provided with the latest navigation chart
editions, corrected to the date of the latest notice to mariners on board. Radio navigation
warnings must be reviewed to verify that the proposed route does not encounter any
temporary hazard. The plan should be prepared using an owner approved checklist,
indicating all information sources to be reviewed to properly complete the plan.
2.7.1 Owner's voyage instructions
The primary guidance for voyage planning are the guidelines set down by the vessel's
owners. The owners should require strict compliance with the Convention on the
international regulations for preventing collisions at sea, exclusion and separation zones
and established policies for under-keel clearance, distances navigation hazards are to be
passed, etc. They may also indicate how the voyage track is to be marked on the charts
and how it should be verified.
Normally the voyage track will be drawn on the voyage charts by the master or ship's
navigator and verified independently by the master or a second officer. Each leg of the
voyage track must be measured to determine its length in nautical miles and the true
course. A written voyage plan is prepared while courses are being laid down on the
chart. The voyage plan should indicate:
The watch conditions expected to be set at each leg of the voyage.
Frequency of position fixing and navigation aids to be used. Where/when the master
is to be called.
Seasonal considerations and weather routing.
Minimum distance(s) off for passing navigation hazards.
Passage plans for restricted waters are particularly important as these are the most
difficult and dangerous parts of the voyage. All officers should review the plan during
preparation and be fully aware of its details.
The true course of each track segment must be marked on the chart. On some ships, the
sounding line representing the shallowest navigable water for the ship is coloured in with
red ink, as are all submerged hazards in deeper water. Owner's instructions regarding
navigation in ice and use of weather routing services must be followed unless they
conflict with the charterer's instructions, in which case the owner must be advised
requesting clarification. In any case where the master is in doubt about the voyage
orders, or believes that a more efficient or safe voyage plan could be used, he is
required to proceed on the safest course while advising the charterer and requesting
Owners will indicate if master is to participate in the automated merchant vessel
reporting (AMVER), system operated by the US Coast Guard.
2.7.2 Charterer's voyage instructions
The voyage objective of the charterer is to get the vessel to the next port as rapidly as
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possible. Intelligent charterers will issue voyage planning instructions which place safety
foremost, but they will also expect the maximum of efficiency and economy within those
guidelines. Charterers expect the ship to be adequately provided with charts,
publications and the latest navigation notices and warnings. Traffic separation schemes
and ice navigation, speed, ballast, reserve bunkers, and water and timing of arrivals are
usually discussed in charterer's instructions. Any navigation decisions which have a
commercial impact should be communicated to the owner and charterer to avoid later
claims for deviation or lack of adequate speed performance.
Charterers will indicate to the master, as necessary, the ship's drafts for entering or
leaving the ports. Drafts will always refer to seawater of specific gravity 1.025 unless
indicated otherwise. The master must satisfy himself that the indicated loading or arrival
draft is correct for the circumstances by reviewing the latest harbour and berth depth
information available to him.
2.7.3 Safe depth
A safe depth is one which provides adequate under-keel clearance. To properly evaluate
the safety of any track line which enters shallow water the master must consider:
The chart datum.
The stage of the tide while transiting.
Effects of the weather on water levels.
The actual draft of his ship allowing for trim 'squat' and list.
The accuracy of the chart surveys.
Failure to account for these effects can produce an under-keel clearance much less than that obtained by
simple subtraction of the draft from the charted depth.
Squat in shallow water can be calculated by the formula:
SQUAT = (2 x Cb x Vs^2) = centimetres Cb - block coefficient Vs - speed in knots
The most important part of this equation is the squared variable -speed. The effect of
speed is apparent when a fully loaded 270,000 DWT VLCC proceeding at eight knots in
shallow water will squat 1.1 meter, while at thirteen knots in shallow water the same
ship squats nearly three meters! The effect is magnified further in dredged channels,
adding more than a meter to the draft of a 270,000 DWT very large crude carrierVLCC
travelling at six knots in a narrow channel. This is in addition to the shallow water depth
squat increase.
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Squat is only one of the variables which determine underkecl clearance.
It is clearly important to provide a large extra margin of under-keel clearance for those
shallow areas which the master intends to pass at full speed. Where under-keel
clearance is less than three meters the master should:
a Reduce speed to the minimum necessary to provide steerage.
b Increase steering ability when turning by putting the rudder over first then'kick' to the
rudder with short bursts of higher engine speeds.
c When under pilotage, discuss speed and squat with the pilot and agree on a maximum
safe speed for the transit. Remember that the pilot is only an advisor. If the master
believes that a slower speed should be used than that recommended by the pilot, then
the master's view shall prevail.
If excessive vibration is experienced while transiting shallow water, then the vessel's
speed should be immediately reduced to minimise squat and increase the under-keel
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Vessel list increases the vessel's effective draft. For a ship with a 40 meter beam, each
degree of list increases the effective draft amidship by 35 centimetres. A three degree
list would increase this ship's draft by more than one meter. Where draft is critical, the
ship should be placed on an even keel before proceeding.
The heeling effect produced by the rudder when making a turn must be considered and
the speed of the ship adjusted when approaching turns to minimise rudder induced list.
Shallow water increases the turning circle of all ships. The turning diameter of a deeply
laden VLCC will be doubled in conditions of restricted under-keel clearance. Deep draft
vessels should avoid meeting other ships at turns or bends in shallow channels.
Vessel turning behaviour in shallow channels requires that the master/pilot always
indicate the amount of counter rudder required to check the swing of the ship. Never
leave the amount of counter rudder to the quartermaster's discretion in shallow waters.
If the vessel is proceeding at moderate (half), speed in shallow water, additional engine
revolutions can always be called for to increase rudder force. This cannot be done if the
ship is already at full speed.
Proceeding in shallow channels with minimum under-keel clearance will reduce the speed
of the ship, in some cases by 2/3!
Deep draft vessels navigating in shallow channels should not overtake other vessels.
Deep draft vessels navigating in narrow channels should display the 'constrained by
draught' signal as appropriate.
2.7.4 Separation schemes
The provisions of the international rules concerning compliance with published traffic
separation schemes must be followed when preparing a voyage plan.
Where there are established major shipping routes, such as in the North Atlantic, the
voyage should be planned to follow these routes, or at least laid down in such a way that
the track does not conflict with the route recommended for vessels proceeding the
opposite way.
The IMO publication Ship routing and other national voyage planning guides summarise
the internationally accepted ship routing schemes.
2.7.5 Weather routing
Weather routing services have as their objective indicating the 'least time route' for the
ship. The distance recommended may be greater, however the time spent in adverse
weather will be less. That advantage usually means that the ship arrives earlier than it
would if it had fought its way through adverse weather on the shortest great circle track.
The charterer will advise details of using his weather routing service. In the absence of
such advice, the owner should utilise weather routing to minimise weather damage to
the ship and cargo and weather stress on the crew.
Allowance for ice conditions must be made in planning the voyage. Non-ice-classed ships
must remain well clear of any area where consolidated pack ice is likely to occur. If an
area subject to ice must be approached, then the master must obtain the best and most
recent ice information from local authorities. Additional lookouts may be necessary if the
vessel is passing an area where ice is suspected or reported, especially bergs or floes.
Vessel speed must be adjusted at night in accordance with SOLAS 1974, Chapter V,
Regulation 7. When a ship must transit pack ice conditions the appropriate icebreaker
service must be contacted to arrange escort. If icebreaker services are arranged in
convoys, the ship must follow the instructions of the controlling icebreaker.
Masters unfamiliar with ice navigation should engage an ice pilot for that portion of the
voyage. If a dedicated icebreaker escort is not available, the ship must wait for the next
ice convoy. The master always retains full authority to abandon a voyage if, in his
judgment, the ship would be exposed to serious danger in proceeding as planned. The
master should keep in mind that although some time is lost by abandoning a voyage,
this will be less costly for the owner than ice penetration of the hull with resulting oil
pollution and damage repair costs.
2.7.6 Prohibited zones
Tankers which will wash tanks and decant slops or dirty ballast during the voyage must
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plan a route which places them outside coastal or oceanic prohibited zones long enough
to conduct these operations within the requirements of MARPOL.
2.7.7 Oceanic currents
Tankers which will prosecute their voyages at reduced speed should carefully examine
the prevailing currents for the waters to determine if the voyage plan can be adjusted to
avoid adverse currents or make the best use of favourable ones. For example: when
proceeding northbound on the southeastern US coast, Gulf Stream 'western wall'
advisories can be obtained from shore radio stations. By setting a slow-speed vessel's
track ten miles to the east of the Gulf Stream's 'western wall' considerable additional
distance can be made at no additional cost in fuel.
2.7.8 Pilotage
The requirement for a voyage plan includes the portion of the voyage which will be
completed under pilotage. The master should prepare a departure and arrival plan which
includes pilotage waters and review the plan with the pilot before proceeding.
2.7.9 Bunkers
The master, in conjunction with the chief engineer and the first officer, must calculate
and confirm that the bunkers carried are sufficient for the voyage to be undertaken. This
calculation requires that the true caloric content of the fuel and the operational losses be
considered. Recommended reserves should never be less than three days for full speed
steaming, and will vary with the length of the voyage and the season of the year.
Any fuel conservation programs required by charterer's should be followed diligently by
the master and chief engineer.
2.7.10 Timing of arrivals
Unless otherwise instructed by charterer's, masters should proceed at the indicated
speed to the arrival port, even though it is apparent that there will be a delay after
arrival. The reasons for this are:
The arrived vessel may use the time to conduct necessary repairs or maintenance,
The ship will reserve an earlier position in the berthing order where 'first come - first
berthed' procedures apply and
The anticipated spare time may be consumed en route by weather, mechanical or
traffic delays.
2.7.11 Publications
Master and owner have a responsibility to ensure that a comprehensive set of the latest
navigation publications are provided to the vessel. Notices to mariners and publication
changes must be obtained when published and dispatched to the ship's next destination
by the quickest method.
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