Personally I as a captain (of my small boat) feel the safest when the boat is away from land and the less control I have over the boat (as a result of for example bad weather) the further away I want to be (but a nautical mile or two is often for me enough). My respect for proximity to land stems form that I have seen the problems that rock-ship interactions can have, but also because I know how the effects of bad weather can be turned in to dangerous forces by the closeness to land such as when shallow water makes a seemingly small wave turn into a wall of water or when high wind speeds are turned into erratic gusts by land formations.
At the same time I see the logic in rules and regulations that define port as the safest place to be. This is exemplified in regulations such as:
- the safe return to port concept for passenger ships (because a port is the only place where many people can debark safely), or
- when some types of work are only allowed to be performed if the ships is at port.
My research clearly show another dangerous aspects of land. Ships are the most susceptible to many security threats in ports or close to land as a result of low speeds and high density of ships. Civilian examples of this include piracy in the Malacca Straits and off Nigeria and military examples include the suicide bombing attacks performed on naval ships (Hans Liwång, Survivability of an ocean patrol vessel – Analysis approach and uncertainty treatment, Marine Structures, Volume 43, October 2015, Pages 1-21) of which the attack on USS Cole probably is the most know example.
Another example of safe at sea is tsunamis were you at port or even on land potentially is a sitting duck. However, at sea a potentially devastating tsunami may raise the sea level but can pass by unnoticed.
Land is dangerous 4(4)
Consequently, I see land as a dangerous thing for boats. It is a 4-to-1 victory!
But then reality show me that it isn’t that simple
The container ship El Faro sunk east of theBahamas October 1 2015 after losing propulsion while attempting to get away from the hurricane Joaquin along the ship's route from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico. All reports indicate that the 33 persons on board died in the accident. Loss of power makes the waves much more difficult to handle which in this case probably led to the reported list and water intrusion through an open hatch. Therefore, in this accident being at sea introduced several uncertainties which this time interacted in such a way that the ship sunk.