Operational Procedures for Assistance to Disabled Vessels

Annex 1: Operational Procedures for Assistance to Disabled Vessels

1. Assistance to a Vessel in Distress or when Status in Doubt

  • 1.1 If time and the circumstances allow, the Commanding Officer should consider providing technical assistance before deciding to tow. From time-to-time, the CCG will have to tow vessels in distress. In the ordinary practice of seamanship, towing involves fewer risks to the towed vessel if the towing vessel is smaller or the same size as the towed vessel. Should towing be necessary, the Commanding Officer shall follow the detailed instructions provided in the Fleet Safety and Security Manual.

  • 1.2 When the situation is stabilized, or if additional information is available to determine that the vessel is no longer in distress, any requirements for further assistance shall follow the directives in Section 2 as appropriate.

2. Assistance to a Disabled Vessel (i.e. not in Distress)

  • 2.1 In open water

    • 2.1.1 No waiting period should delay the tasking of any mobile facility to any situation where there is an uncertainty as to the safety of the persons at sea.

    • 2.1.2 When the master of a disabled vessel requesting assistance (non-distress or non-potential distress) is in direct communication with a Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) Centre, Regional Operations Centre, or Ice Office and has advised that persons onboard are in no immediate danger, the centre/office shall ensure that the Maritime SAR Mission Co-ordinator (at the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre or Maritime Rescue Sub-centre (JRCC/MRSC)) for the area in which the disabled vessel is located is informed and provided with all pertinent information in order for the Maritime SAR Mission Co-ordinator to take the lead. As the vessel is not in distress, sufficient time will be taken to evaluate the request before deciding on a course of action. CCG will not compete with commercial salvage or towing interests and therefore will not tow disabled vessels unless all efforts to obtain commercial or private assistance have been carried-out and have failed to resolve the situation. In general, (refer to Appendix 2 for decision guidance):

      1. The Maritime SAR Mission Co-ordinator, normally through the appropriate MCTS Centre, shall advise the owner/operator to make his or her own arrangements for assistance;

      2. If the owner/operator is unable or unwilling to secure arrangements for assistance, the Maritime SAR Mission Co-ordinator shall request that the MCTS Centre issue a Maritime Assistance Request Broadcast (MARB) alerting all private, commercial and vessels of opportunity in the area of the need for assistance and thus giving them the opportunity to provide this assistance;

      3. If there is no response to the MARB, in special circumstances, the Maritime SAR Mission Co-ordinator may contact other mobile facilities such as CCG primary SAR units or CCGA to provide an expeditious response;

      4. The Maritime SAR Co-ordinator will consult with the Regional Operations Centre if it is determined that assistance will be needed from a CCG vessel not on primary SAR as the tasking may impact other programs. In all cases, when the Maritime SAR Mission Co-ordinator tasks CCG resources they shall provide all pertinent information regarding the vessel requiring assistance and instruct the Commanding Officer to take any reasonable action in order to resolve the situation.

      5. The Maritime SAR Mission Co-ordinator through their regional alert network must provide Transport Canada Marine Safety and Transportation Safety Board with details of the incident in order to support actions preventing similar incidents from occurring in the future. Special emphasis should be placed on situations when the SAR Mission Co-ordinator and/or the Commanding Officer of the assisting vessel reasonably believe that the disabled vessel had to be assisted because it was un-seaworthy or otherwise in violation of Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and/or the regulations made there under.

    • 2.1.3 Although the Maritime SAR Mission Co-ordinator should not routinely engage in obtaining third party assistance for a disabled vessel, in exceptional circumstances and in complete consultation with the owner/operator of the disabled vessel, the Maritime SAR Mission Co-ordinator may aid in co-ordinating commercial or private assistance. The owner/operator shall be informed and agree that he or she will always remain responsible for any and all costs incurred. It must be made clear to the supplier and the end user of the assisting service that the CCG or the Crown has no contractual or other obligation whatsoever in any arrangement.

    • 2.1.4 Regions are to ensure that CCG Environmental Response and partner agencies, such as Transport Canada Marine Safety and the Transportation Safety Board are informed of the details of requests for assistance according to established protocols. Any requests received by Regional Operations Centre for CCG resources to assist disabled vessels on behalf of partner agencies shall be forwarded to the Assistant Commissioner. The Assistant Commissioner’s approval will be required before any CCG resource is tasked to tow disabled vessels of 33 metres or more in length.

    • 2.1.5 For disabled vessels in open water, in order to prevent more serious safety risks from developing, technical assistance may be provided on an as available basis by the CCG only after efforts to obtain commercial or private assistance have been carried out and have failed to resolve the situation.

    • 2.1.6 In all other situations if time and the circumstances allow, the Commanding Officer should consider providing technical assistance before deciding to tow. Any technical assistance, such as fuel or provisions transferred to the disabled vessel, will be strictly on account of the owner/operator of that vessel. From time-to-time the CCG will have to tow disabled vessels. In the ordinary practice of seamen towing involves fewer risks to the towed vessel if the towing vessel is smaller or the same size as the towed vessel. Should towing be necessary, Commanding Officers shall follow detailed instructions in the Fleet Safety and Security Manual. In general, the Commanding Officer shall provide a copy and formally explain to the master or person in charge of the disabled vessel written towing conditions (see Appendix 1). The Commanding Officer shall also discuss the risks of towing and CCG expectations during the tow.

    • 2.1.7 When any CCG resource has a disabled vessel under tow and commercial or private assistance arrives on-scene, the Commanding Officer shall hand over the tow to the commercial/private vessel provided it appears capable and the transfer can be conducted safely.

    • 2.1.8 Requests to use a CCG resource to engage in salvage operations of vessels, outside of a SAR operation, with no persons on board shall be carefully assessed prior to authorization by the Assistant Commissioner. Since salvage is normally the responsibility of the vessel owner, the status of the owner must be determined to be unknown, unwilling or unable. Recovery of an abandoned vessel including towing to a place of refuge should be made under the CCG Environmental Response mandate.

    • 2.1.9 Should a disabled vessel be towed by a CCG resource the towing operation should always be to the nearest place of refuge or to a rendez-vous position where the tow can be safely transferred to commercial or private mobile facilities. In all cases, the Commanding Officer shall record the date and time when the SAR operation ended i.e., when the persons aboard the disabled vessel have been transferred to a safe place and the time when they started the disabled vessel operation under CCG Environmental Response mandate in the log book.

    • 2.1.10 On arrival at the place of refuge, it is not the responsibility of the CCG resource to secure the disabled vessel. However, the Commanding Officer may take such action as is necessary, having due regard for the circumstances of the case, to ensure that the disabled vessel is safely secured or anchored.

    • 2.1.11 Commanding Officers may have to cast off the tow in order to respond to a distress situation or incident of a more serious nature. In instances when the persons onboard the disabled vessel consider themselves to be in potential danger and wish to abandon, the Commanding Officer of the CCG resource should consider the risks and if prudent to do so, evacuate these persons and continue on with the more serious incident with the knowledge that these persons may have to remain onboard the CCG resource for an extended period. The Commanding Officer shall notify the JRCC/MRSC of the action taken.

  • 2.2 When ice is present

    • 2.2.1 The provisions of this paragraph 2.2 apply in addition to the provisions of paragraph 2.1.

    • 2.2.2 In the ordinary practice of seamanship, towing involves fewer risks to the towed vessel if the towing vessel is smaller or the same size as the towed vessel. When ice is present, CCG resources are generally much larger than the disabled vessel, thus due care and attention must be exercised. Tasking smaller vessels to tow a disabled vessel of similar size is an option preferable to tasking a larger CCG ship. Additional consideration should be given to the possibility of using a larger CCG ship to escort the towing vessel and its tow through the ice.

    • 2.2.3 Therefore, given the considerations in paragraph 2.2.2 for disabled vessels when ice is present, the CCG will not tow small vessels of less than 33 metres in length with persons onboard. Instead, other options to be considered to render assistance include, but are not limited to the following:

      1. provide assistance to find alternate towing arrangements and standby to provide icebreaker escort for the tow if required;
      2. standby until ice conditions improve;
      3. render onboard technical assistance;
      4. assist crew to transfer to a safe place and tow with no persons onboard; or,
      5. as a last resort, assist crew to abandon vessel, transfer them to a safe place, leave the unoccupied vessel and depart the area.

3. Towing instructions and conditions

  • In all situations where towing is appropriate, and as far as safely feasible in the circumstances, the Commanding Officer of the responding CCG unit shall instruct the master or person in charge of the assisted vessel on the towing operation that is contemplated, its risks and CCG expectations during the tow. The master or person in charge of the assisted vessel shall confirm his or her understanding of the instructions and risks, and agree to the conditions of the towing operation. If safely feasible, the Commanding Officer of the responding CCG unit shall obtain a signature of the Towing Conditions and Understanding (see Appendix 1).