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Rules of Berthing

There are certain actions that a master should always take before and during berthing. These are listed below.

Passage planning

• Always passage plan from berth to berth. Pay careful attention to the dangers that are likely to be encountered during the pilotage.

• Always fully brief the pilot, making sure that he understands the ship’s speed and manoeuvring characteristics.

• Always ask the pilot to discuss the passage and berthing plan. Ask questions if anything is unclear.

Working with tugs

• Consider the use of tug assistance, where wind and current or the ship’s handling characteristics create difficult berthing conditions.

• Always estimate windage and use this estimate to determine the number of tugs required.

• When berthing with a bow thruster, a large ship may need a tug to control the ship’s stern.


• Avoid high forward speed when working with tugs, when using a bow thruster, when under-keel clearance is small, when sailing in a narrow channel or when close to other ships.

• Test astern movement and wait until the ship moves positively astern before stopping.

• Remember that a kick ahead can be used to initiate and maintain a turn when speed is low.

• Remember that the ship’s pivot point is forward of amidships when steaming ahead.

• Remember that a ship will want to settle with the pivot point to the windward of, and in alignment with, the point of influence of wind.

• Remember that the point of influence of wind changes with wind direction and the ship’s heading.

• Remember that at low speed, current and wind have a greater effect on manoeuvrability and that highsided ships will experience a pronounced effect from leeway.


• Never ring ‘finished with engines’ until every mooring line has been made fast.

• Always anticipate well ahead and expect the unexpected to occur.

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