News 16 Mar, 2009

Singapore: Risk of Contact Damage When Anchoring Outside Port Limits

Vessels calling at Singapore for bunkers often anchor “Outside Port Limits” (OPL) to avoid port charges and pilotage fees. This has been common practice for many years. However, in the past few weeks the Club has been notified of several incidents where vessels have either collided with other ships while anchoring or have themselves been struck while anchored.

There are two OPL anchorages off Singapore; the Eastern OPLand the Western OPL. Both locations are now extremely crowded with idle vessels, making it hard to find sufficient space to anchor. Attempting to anchor at night is reported to be particularly hazardous.

Vessels anchored in the Eastern and Western OPLs may experience tidal currents of up to 4 knots. Moreover, it is not unusual for a ship to become wind-rode and swing in the opposite direction. The main engine must therefore be ready for use at all times in case it is necessary to kick the stern away from an adjacent vessel or go astern to prevent bow contact.

In addition to the risk of contact between swinging ships, vessels entering the anchorage may also experience problems. Those approaching with the tide occasionally misjudge the set when turning into the current and collide with anchored ships which were originally considered to be a safe distance away. Similarly, those approaching against the tide sometimes assume that vessels anchored nearby are facing directly into the current, rather than 30 degrees off the current it as is often the case. The approaching ship, believing it is stemming the tide, suddenly finds that it is closing in much faster than expected and clips the bow of the nearest anchored vessel.

Until this situation eases, we recommend that Members bunker their vessels inside Singapore port limits. Although this will mean employing a pilot and incurring port charges, the risk of contact damage will almost certainly be reduced as the anchorage areas within port limits are far less congested.

If required to await orders or take stores, we understand that it is not uncommon for vessels to anchor approximately 5 to 10 miles off the east coast of Malaysia as an alternative to the busy OPLs. The area, as indicated on the attached chartlet, is not an official anchorage but has a depth of water of between 20 to 30 metres and is clear of the main shipping lanes. However it is only suitable between March and November due to the weather conditions. Members wishing to anchor their vessels in this location should check with their local agents in the first instance.

Source: Maritime Claims & Services Pte Ltd, Singapore