Keep clear of safety zones

Lookout! Issue 25, June 2012

Sixty metres of vessel weighing 1,500 tonnes steamed through the safety zone of a gas production platform last year coming as close as 300 metres.

Several platform crew saw the vessel approaching during the early afternoon, but were initially not concerned as they mistook it for their own support vessel bringing in a delivery.

The vessel continued its approach, and as it eventually steamed straight past the platform, crew realised it was not their vessel.

The crew contacted the vessel, and accused the master of having entered the charted 500m safety exclusion zone around the platform. The vessel tried to deny the breach, but positional plotting later showed it had come 203 metres inside the zone.

At the time, the vessel’s second officer was on the bridge and the master was below. They had both been relieving staff at the time of the close quarters.


  • The vessel’s management rightly took this matter very seriously and did not renew the contracts of the master, nor the second officer.
  • Breaches of safety zones are extremely dangerous, and carry penalties of significant fines and/or imprisonment. Safety zones are typically set up to protect off-shore installations, and any collision could clearly be cataclysmic.
  • Watchkeepers must ensure they are fully aware of any charted safety zones where they are operating. Safety zones are clearly marked and supported with notes (usually within the chart’s title block). Up-to-date charts are vital.
  • A continuous radio watch must be maintained, particularly in the vicinity of safety zones, to ensure that any events, alarms or warnings are heard and can be responded to.

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