In light of two recent navigation incidents in the commercial industry, in which there is a common theme of denial, Adrian McCourt, managing director of Watkins Superyachts, has analysed the two Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) reports following the incidents and applied them to the yachting industry in order to highlight valuable safety lessons to the captains and crew in his fleet.

In the first case, Vectis Eagle grounded while entering Gijon, Spain in November 2014 and in the second instance, Commodore Clipper grounded on the approach to St Peter Port, Guernsey, some five months earlier. “Both cases have an element of disorganised chaos to them when it comes to navigation, lack of bridge teamwork and complacency,” explains McCourt, who suggests that there is nothing new with the incidents, but it is still a timely reminder of how to do things the wrong way.


Vectis Eagle. Image courtesy of MAIB

“We would like to highlight that both captains opted for the route of denial,” McCourt continues. “In the case of Vectis Eagle, Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) information was conveniently ‘not saved’ and the master went to some lengths to instruct his crew to deny any knowledge of the ship touching bottom and tried to mislead his fleet manager and attending surveyors.


"Nine seconds of shuddering reported by the chief engineer below as ‘surpassing anything he had experienced’, was dismissed by the master as ‘caused by some fishing pots picked up by the propellers’.”



"Commodore Clipper was in notoriously shallow water, passing close to a shoal patch marked with a beacon at 18.2 knots – at that depth and speed, she’d have been very close to the ground. Nine seconds of shuddering reported by the chief engineer below as ‘surpassing anything he had experienced’, was dismissed by the master as ‘caused by some fishing pots picked up by the propellers’.”

In both cases the vessels were inbound, but McCourt adds that such denial on an outbound passage and the prospect of loss of buoyancy in deep water would have been catastrophic.

McCourt concludes his assessment with a final word of reassurance to the Watkins fleet; “Accidents and incidents happen. They spoil our day but we will be supportive and assist in every way we can. We will be fair in investigation and reporting, but we start from a difficult position if time has to be wasted unraveling the truth.”

The full MAIB report on the Vectis Eagle incident can be read here.
The full MAIB report on the Commodore Clipper incident can be read here.