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Piotr Lizakowski

Maritime University of Gdynia (Akademia Morska w Gdyni)



The safety of overtaking manoeuvres of nautical vessels is an important element when implementing
navigation on restricted waters. The specificity of the limited reservoir reduces the available
manoeuvring space. One of the elements decisive for the smooth running of the overtaking manoeuvre
is the correct assessment of the lateral distance between the vessels during its execution. The article
presents the causes of ship collisions during overtaking on restricted waters.


The operation of shipping at sea is subject to a risk which depends on the area of swimming, the
parameters of the ship, the persons operating the given unit and hydrometeorological conditions.
Navigation is guiding the ship taking into account external conditions, determining its location, in order
to securely perform it in accordance with the transport task. External conditions include the bathymetric
characteristics of the water body along with its hydrometeorological conditions and the volume of ship
traffic. The environment in which marine vessels move is a specific environment that creates many
unforeseen situations. The steady increase in ship traffic volumes and their volumes results in a decrease
in safety in maritime transport.


The nautical personnel of sea-going vessels must carry out safely a ship from the port of departure to
the destination port, in conditions where the likelihood of collision with another facility is high [2, 3].
The consequences of such an event include loss of means of transport, threat to human life (crew and
passengers) and environmental pollution. Ship collisions at sea will always occur, especially in
restricted areas and in difficult weather conditions, where the navigator is exposed to stress when
making an incorrect decision to avoid collision during an overtaking maneuver. Equipping ships with
object detection systems and integrated means of communication is a standard. These systems,
however, do not contain an advisory element, allowing to develop and indicate the correct decision to
be taken to avoid collisions. Regulations governing each other the movement and duties of ships on the
seas are imprecise in relation to specific areas, such as limited waters, so it is necessary to set safe
parameters for overtaking maneuvers of sea-going vessels.



Safe navigation depends to a large extent on the type of water area on which it is held. There are two
types of classification of manoeuvring reservoirs: general and detailed [2]. The general classifications
divide the navigational waters into limited and unlimited ones, whereas the general classifications are
divided into specific types, such as: oceans, seas, coastal reservoirs, ports, river basins, straits, canals,

Open water reservoirs are characterized by the lack of permanent navigational obstacles. Thus,
navigating during the maritime watch is mainly about avoiding collisions with other ships, and there is
an unlimited manoeuvring space at your disposal.

The basic factors that allow a given body to qualify as limited or unlimited are:

• difficulty in executing the maneuver,

• safety of the maneuver.

Both of these factors are interrelated - as the difficulty of the maneuver increases, as a rule, the level of
safety decreases. In limited waters, due to the difficulty in performing the maneuver, the ship is run by
a very experienced navigator. It is therefore possible to classify a restricted water area as the area where
the maneuver is performed by the most experienced navigator on the ship. The percentage share of
individual types of failure on restricted and open waters serves as a guideline for the classification of
navigational waters. For example, about 90% of groundings [4] occur on limited waters.


The restricted area is the environment in which there are numerous safety hazards limiting collision-
free maneuvers. It is primarily characterized by limited space for maneuvering. The basic criterion for
the overtaking maneuver is the critical overtaking distance S. This is the distance at which the maneuver
should be started to safely overtake the object while remaining within the boundaries of the limited
fairway. The critical overtaking distance S, in which the maneuver should be started, is one of the
factors determining the effectiveness of anti-collision. if operation will be performed for a small value
of parameter S, then the following cases can be considered:
• late decision about overtaking - short distance S
from the overtaken vessel, excessive rudder deflection, too high speed or
two or three elements at the same time;
• late decision about overtaking - small distance S from
overtaking vessel or too high speed; too short a distance on the traverse of the overtaken vessel causes
the occurrence of hydrodynamic forces that result in a change in the course of the overtaken vessel
and collision with the overtaken vessel;
• late decision about overtaking - short distance S from overtaken vessel or too high speed;
• failure of the overtaken vessel;
• safe overtaking maneuver.
Fig. 1. Impact forces between ships for constant ship speeds

The last case concerns the situation when the maneuver is completely effective - avoiding
collision and grounding. The first three situations refer to the navigator's late reaction - the
result of the action taken is to avoid the collision or go beyond the boundaries of the restricted
area, but too rapid a change in the course of the vessel leads to crossing the boundaries of
the fairway.

Critical distance S presented in the literature [1, 5] shapes the size of the front part of the pre-
sailing domain. These quantities are based primarily on simulation studies and expert
knowledge, thus they are not subject to verification in real conditions. Currently used sizes
domains contain a large safety margin for the parameter S and in most cases do not
correspond to the critical limit at which the effective overtaking should be made. In addition,
for large values of the parameter S defining the front part of the domain, the methods used do
not specify which maneuver - the value of the tilt of the rudder blade α should be made to
meet the conditions of the first case.
The ship's manoeuvring area

Fig. 2. Overtaking maneuver on limited water

The second parameter considered for the overtaking maneuver is the lateral distance of the passing of
ships d. This is the distance between the units during the maneuver. It should be such that ships under
the influence of hydrodynamic forces do not succumb to each other. Too small side distance d will
cause contact of units, which excludes the effectiveness of the action taken. Excessive value d may lead
to the second case presented above, i.e. to avoid collision while crossing the boundaries of a limited
water body. Knowledge of the permissible values of parameter d allows you to predict the maneuvers
performed and to assess whether such effective action is possible at all.

The third parameter defining the overtaking efficiency is the tilt value of the rudder blade α. This value
is inextricably linked to the two previously described parameters. Do not use the maximum deflection
of the rudder blade, especially at high speeds, as this may lead to technical failure of the ship.

When performing an overtaking maneuver - depending on S, steering angle, ship speed and wind and
current - the lateral distance on the traverse will change. In addition, the ship's maneuvering on the
course causes that the ship will occupy an area with a width greater than its own width B. Because
during the overtaking maneuver, control errors (influence of external conditions) are unknown at a
given moment, it should be assumed that this parameter is random. This introduces a random
disturbance to the increase in the width of the ship's lane.
The αm control error is a random error resulting from the helicopter's experience, knowledge and
practice. The control error αm can be described by the normal distribution N (0, σ), where σ is in the
range <2 °, 4 °>. The side distance d can be given by the formula [1]:


S - distance of overtaking [m],

B1, B2 - widths [m],

α0 - set control angle [°].

The lateral distance of overtaking of ships will depend on the random factor resulting from control
errors and the influence of disturbing factors (wind, current).

The probability of p (u) finding the lead ship at a distance from the overtaken vessel is:

u1 - the minimum lateral distance of passing units [m],

u2 - fairway width [m].


It is particularly important for the overtaking vessel to maintain sufficient distance and lateral spacing
from the overtaken vessel. This requirement is dictated by many reasons. Too close going past the
overtaken vessel may result in a harmful wave constant from passing a large advance vessel. It can
cause the operator to be overtaken by the fear that there is a risk of collision and make him do ill-
considered and erroneous maneuvers leading to collision or grounding.

ships on the fairway

attraction of ships


Fig. 3. The occurrence of hydrodynamic forces during the overtaking maneuver

This situation also applies to the overtaking vessel, which, when approaching a short distance,
can perform a reckless operation, leading to a catastrophe. There may also occur the
phenomenon of suction involving the mutual attraction of ships, caused by the difference of
water pressures on both sides of the ship with close passing next to each other. This
phenomenon usually occurs in shallow water at high speed of both ships (overtaken and
overtaking) and a small difference in their speed, especially when a large ship overtakes a
smaller one. A ship moving at a high speed causes hydrodynamic phenomena, manifested by
increased water pressure at the ship's fore and aft. By contrast, a difference in reduced water
pressure is created at midships.
During an overtaking maneuver, when the nose of the overtaking vessel is level with the stern
of the overtaken vessel, the summation of the forces repelling the bow from the stern is
observed. At the moment when the forward of the overtaking vessel passes the aft part of the
overtaken vessel, there is a tendency to return towards the overtaken vessel as a result of the
forces attracting to the board of the overtaken vessel. Mobility takes place in the further course
of the maneuver strength, this moment is characterized by the largest increase in resistance,
expressed by the reduction of the speed of both units. The moment in which the bow of the
ship ahead of him will be in the position ahead of the bow of the overtaken vessel is
characterized by an increase in attracting forces. They reach their maximum value when the
overtaking vessel passes the oath of the overtaken vessel, the bow is attracted to midships as a
result of lowering the water surface in this part and three forces: drawing the overtaken vessel
to the stern and two forces caused by its own flow asymmetry. The interplay of hydrodynamic
forces between ships disappears when the stern of the overtaking vessel passes the bow of the
overtaken vessel. When overtaking ships, transverse forces and transverse moment are
distinguished for both units.

Fig. 4. Coordinate system for the overtaking maneuver [7]

Dimensional forces and transverse moments can be expressed as follows [7]:

Li hi ΔP di CFi CMi ρ
Li - length of the ship [m],
hi - depth of water [m],
ΔP - pressure difference along the direction of movement of the vessel,
di - ship's draft [m],
CFi - transverse force of hydrodynamic interaction,
CMi - transverse moment of hydrodynamic impact,
ρ - water density.

Based on numerical tests [7], it was determined that the maximum lateral deviation of the
overtaken vessel occurs when the velocity ratio of both units is 1: 2. The maximum moments
and lateral forces are observed for slower and smaller vessels and as the depth of the basin
decreases. Numerical tests [7] have not been verified on the physical models of ships. They are
not a holistic view of overtaking. They only cover the analysis of the side distance of the
maneuver, without taking into account and interrelating with the initial stage of overtaking, i.e.
the distance in which the ship starts overtaking, and with the change of course for the
implementation of the maneuver.


The presented measure of the correct overtaking maneuver on the limited water does not take
into account the influence of hydrodynamic forces, acting between vessels. Determining the
impact of these forces requires the use of advanced measurement techniques and large physical
models on the open water, in order to limit the effect of scale effect. Setting the boundary
parameters of the maneuver for the overtaking vessel will allow prediction of the ship's position
and optimal control of the ship during overtaking. The developed models can be used in safety
management systems, anti-collision systems and decision support systems for ship navigation
systems and land traffic control systems. The process of running a ship on a limited water tank
is closely related to taking actions to avoid a collision situation, and thus effective
maneuvering, to avoid collision with another object and at the same time to maintain within
the limits of the available maneuvering space, which is exceeded is associated with a threat to
the ship and the environment. The ability to accurately predict the behavior of the ship allows
a preventive approach to assess the safety of the overtaking maneuver. The solution of this
issue is particularly important due to the density of traffic of large vessels on restricted areas
and the lack of knowledge in the field of safety measures for the overtaking maneuver.
There are many situations in which human error is the cause of marine accidents. An example
illustrating the risk of overtaking maneuvers in a restricted area are events that occurred on the
Elba River (approachable fairway to the port of Hamburg). In March 2004, two container ships
collided (m / v "P & O Nedlloyd Finland" and m / v "Cosco Hamburg") during the overtaking
maneuver [5]. Despite the good weather conditions prevailing on the reservoir and driving by
experienced German pilots too late overtaking was commenced, and the value of the change of
the leading ship's course was insufficient. In addition, the side distance of passing ships was
wrongly assessed, which led to the occurrence of hydrodynamic interactions between ships
and, ultimately, collisions. In addition to the collision, the consequence of this accident was
the falling of one crew member overboard as a result of the heel obtained by the ship being
overtaken under the influence of hydrodynamic forces (Fig. 5).
Fig. 5. Collision while overtaking on the fairway [5]


Despite equipping ships with navigation support systems, such as ARPA, ECDIS, AIS,
collision situations can not be avoided. Even the most advanced and reliable systems can not
be used on restricted waters and in places with high traffic. These are areas where ship
collisions occur most often. Modification and extension of these systems with additional
modules will contribute to the development of decision support systems enabling the
development of correct anti-collision decisions for ships sailing in close range. Research to
determine the effect of hydrodynamic forces on the lateral overtaking distance and link them
to the parameters of the maneuver will enable the development of a random model that will be
used as a tool in the decision making process when overtaking a ship. Current research on the
influence of hydrodynamic forces is based on computer simulations. In addition, they do not
take into account the relationship of side distance to the distance of the maneuver and the choice
of course change to avoid collision.



Safety of overtaking manoeuvers is an essential point of navigation carried out in restricted areas. The specificity of such
areas causes reduce of manoeuvering available space. One of the ele- ments determining no collision overtaking manoeuvre
is the correct evaluation of the lateral distance between two ships during the action. The paper presentss the causes of vessel
collision during over- taking in restricted areas.

1. Burciu Z., Lizakowski P., Analysis of the risk of an overtaking maneuver based on the
Bayesian network, Problems of Exploitation, 2009, No. 4.

2. Gucma L., Modeling of risk factors for the collision of vessels with port and offshore
constructions, Studia / Maritime University of Szczecin, 2005, No. 44 ,.

3. Gucma L., Smalko Z., Selected problems and methods of Navigational Risk Assessment,
Proc. 12th International Congress IMAM Lisbon 2005, vol. 1.

4. Gucma S., Marine Traffic Engineering, Wydawnictwo Okrętownictwo i Żegluga, Gdańsk


5. Investigation Report 45/04 Collision between CMV Cosco Hamburg and CMV P & O
Nedlloyd Finland on 01 March 2004 on the Lower Elbe / off Buoy 91 with the Heath of one
seaman, Bundesstelle fur Seeunfalluntersuchund, Hamburg 2006.

6. Lizakowski P., Man's anthropotechnical system - the effectiveness of the overtaking

maneuver in a limited space, XXXVII Winter School of Reliability Szczyrk.

7. Varyani K., Krishnankutty P., New generic mathematical model to predict hydrodynamic
interactions for overtaking maneuvers in simulators, Journal of Marine Science and
Technology, 2004, 9.

AU - Varyani, Kamlesh S.
AU - Thavalingam, Appapillai
AU - Krishnankutty, Parmeswarn
PY - 2004
DA - 2004/05/01
TI - New generic mathematical model to predict hydrodynamic interaction
effects for overtaking maneuvers in simulators
JO - Journal of Marine Science and Technology
SP - 24
EP - 31
VL - 9
IS - 1
AB - To improve the formulation of ship–ship interaction forces and
moments in a mathematical model of a ship maneuvring simulator, we
developed a new generic mathematical model for the overtaking maneuver.
This process involves using the numerical results, which provide a
potentially complete set of data from which (within the constraints of
the numerical modelling) everything necessary can be acquired. We found
that the new generic mathematical model is as accurate as the numerical
model. It is also more accessible to a navigator, master, or pilot, who
could use it on a palmtop computer by keying in a few numberical estimates
of the size, position, and speed of the neighboring ship and receive
almost instant aneous results, giving time for a refined strategy to be
validated if necessary. These results can also readily be used by
simulation program developers to simulate the worst possible scenarios.
SN - 1437-8213
UR -
DO - 10.1007/s00773-003-0172-4
ID - Varyani2004
ER -