The deck lights used by cruise ships have been identified as a potential navigation risk at sea at night, in the investigation of a complaint by a yacht Skipper following an encounter with a cruise vessel, writes Tom MacSweeney.
It was investigated by the CHIRP Maritime organisation, the British (UK) Confidential Reporting Programme for Maritime incidents. The aim of CHIRP is to contribute to the enhancement of maritime safety worldwide. It says that it provides “a totally independent confidential (not anonymous) reporting system for all individuals employed in the maritime industry. It provides a similar aviation system.
The yacht Skipper reported to CHRIP that it was difficult to distinguish navigation lights amongst other deck lights:
“I was under sail in a Southerly direction when I saw the lights of another vessel off my starboard bow.” Endeavouring to keep clear “the relative tracks didn’t seem, to make sense if I was seeing what I thought was a green starboard navigation light.”
The vessel was a cruise ship which crossed a mile ahead, going from East to West.
“I should therefore, have been able to see the port navigation light, but could not convince myself there was a red light amongst the multitude of other lights visible on the cruise liner.”
As the vessels were both a safe distance from each other, there was no harm, but the amount of coloured lights on cruise ships has been identified as an issue needing attention.
The yacht Skipper said: “The Collision Regulations specify the minimum visibility of navigation lights. However, the impact of other bright lights, obscuring the navigation lights, is not appreciated. Vessels should ensure that their navigation lights are bright enough to be seen against the background of all their other lights and avoid using coloured deck lights where this can cause confusion. Very bright deck working lights obscuring navigation lights are often an issue on fishing boats as well.”
The CHIRP investigation comment said: “The Maritime Advisory Board highlighted the importance of taking a series of compass bearings in order to determine whether a risk of collision exists Navigation light visibility, irrespective of other lighting, must comply with COL REGS.
“They queried why classification societies permit these designs where visibility is obscured. Technology exists whereby deck lighting may be adequately shaded – permitting safe movement on board, yet not obscuring regulatory lights. The quality of lights bulbs used is another possible consideration. Take LED for example – are approved suppliers holding the introduction of these back due to a lack of any requirement in COLREGS?”