Quick thinking and resourcefulness have won a team of three of Ports Victoria’s Melbourne Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) officers the prestigious Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) VTS award for 2020-21.
Operating from the Port Operations Control Centre in Port Melbourne, the Melbourne VTS manages all shipping movements for the port of Melbourne in the northern part of Port Phillip Bay, including the port.
On Sunday 27 December 2020, the Melbourne VTS team of Andrew Pinto (Senior VTS Officer), Herman Kat (VTS Officer) and Dale Drego (VTS Officer) successfully managed a number of simultaneous shipping incidents in the port of Melbourne that arose from a sudden, serious change in the weather.
An unexpected, severe weather change came through in the late afternoon with winds over 55 knots and, within minutes, a sudden change in wind direction. This created dangerous conditions for ships in the port and out in the bay.
When the winds hit the port, a container ship departing Swanson Dock immediately had trouble maintaining control. She returned alongside the berth with the help of a marine pilot on board and two tugs, and then, for safety, abandoned her departure.
At the same time, another ship was in difficulty at Webb Dock West. A car carrier vessel had broken the lines that connected her to the wharf even though extra lines were used and special storm moorings were connected. With the lines broken, the vessel started moving.
The VTS team immediately instructed the vessel to drop both her anchors which helped stop her movement. They also immediately asked the master of a nearby vessel to move his vessel forward along the berth to avoid a collision with the car carrier. These combined actions successfully prevented a collision between the two vessels.
At the same time, a large tanker in the Anchorage in Port Phillip Bay was having difficulties because of the wind, dragging her anchor and drifting outside her anchorage area. The VTS team quickly gave permission for the tanker to lift her anchor and move to a new position under their watchful oversight.
A fourth incident then took place when a tanker berthed at Gellibrand Pier also had problems maintaining its lines in the severe wind. The VTS team directed shore-side assistance for the tanker to enable it to regain control.
How the team managed the incidents
The leader of the VTS team, SVTSO Andrew Pinto, said “The award is a big surprise but it is nice to be acknowledged for the outcome and the teamwork.
“The result on the day was due to teamwork not only within the VTS but also with the port service providers such as the coastal ships’ masters, pilots and tug operators.
“There were several incidents unfolding at the same time and in order to manage the situation we had to prioritise them in terms of risk and consequence. Everyone’s goal was to ensure there would be no injuries, no environmental pollution and no property damage.
“Clear communication between all of the parties meant everyone could use their knowledge and experience to bring the situation under control.
“In the VTS we have good procedures and training and, reassuringly, we knew we had the support of our Harbour Master, Kell Dillon, and Marine Manager (VTS), Stephen D’Souza, providing timely advice.
“When the emergency was over the sense of relief was immense.”
|VTSO Herman Kat, SVTSO Andrew Pinto||VTSO Dale Drego|
Ports Victoria’s Harbour Master for the port of Melbourne, Kell Dillon, complimented the Melbourne VTS team for their rapid and professional conduct to manage a complex and challenging incident in the port. He also thanked AMSA for the recognition.
Kell acknowledged the efforts of the ships’ masters, the marine pilots, tug crews and line-handling services for a coordinated effort to deal with a potentially high consequence scenario.