Safe Speed and Stopping Distance
The ColRegs require that every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that proper effective action can be taken to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.
In cases of need, the OOW shall not hesitate to use the engines to reduce speed further and allow more time for consideration and assessment of a developing situation. However, timely notice of the intended variations of engine speed shall be given to the engineers where possible or effective use made of UMS engine controls.
Whatever the pressure on Masters to make a quick passage or to meet the wishes of owners, operators, charterers or port operators, it does not justify vessels and those on board them being unnecessarily put at risk. The MCA is concerned that proper standards be maintained and will take appropriate action against officers who jeopardize their vessels or the lives and property of others. Such action may lead to fines and/or the suspension or cancellation of their certificates.
In the well known case of THE LADY GWENDOLEN, the Court of Appeal stated that “excessive speed in fog is a grave breach of duty and vessel owners should use their influence to prevent it.” Because of their failure to do so, it was held in that case that the owners could not limit their liability.