According to reports the 71-year-old independent diver James Stormes, entered the waters of Rockland Harbor on Sunday morning to clean the hull of the Cayman Islands-registered superyacht, following which the yacht’s crew contacted police when the diver failed to resurface.
Though the cause of death is unknown at this stage, the tragic incident raises some serious questions about safety surrounding the cleaning of a superyacht’s hull. Who should be doing the cleaning? An external professional or an existing crewmember with diving qualifications? And how often should the potentially risky operation be conducted?
“I tend to be of the opinion that about anything on a superyacht should be done by a professional, or at least professionally. This is not to say that a crewmember cannot be trained, but in general, an external professional if well experienced and highly recommended should have the right equipment and the right expertise to do the job with the least risk of causing damage to the paint job or the hull,” explains Ed Roberts, director of sales and marketing at Hodgdon Yachts.
“Diving is serious business, even if in twenty-five feet of water. The best service the captain can provide the owner is to assure everyone that works on the boat in any capacity is qualified and competent – diver certification is but one example.”
“A watch should always be posted when
any diver is active around a hull, even when it involves an outside
professional cleaning team. Regardless of the actual or implied liability,
prudence dictates the deck officer be made aware of and monitor the activity
under the hull as well as above it.” - Ed Roberts
The less frequently a yacht’s hull is cleaned, the less often a diver or crewmember will have to enter the water to do the job. However, if a yacht’s hull is not cleaned as frequently as is necessary, the diver or crewmember will of course have to spend longer in the water under strict diving conditions to get the job done properly.
So how often does a yacht’s hull really need to be cleaned? “It depends on many different variables from frequency of use, ambient water temperature conditions where moored, coatings use and so forth,” explains Roberts. “Basing the cleaning on routine inspections is probably the single most important discipline.”
And these routine inspections come down to the captain, however in many cases crew are also actively involved in these routine inspections, sometimes actually cleaning the hull or at other times just supporting an outside firm who has been outsourced to do the job.
But in all cases, notes Roberts: “A watch should always be posted when any diver is active around a hull, even when it involves an outside professional cleaning team. Regardless of the actual or implied liability, prudence dictates the deck officer be made aware of and monitor the activity under the hull as well as above it.”
If the crewmember or diver in the water has the correct qualifications, and the watch on board is undertaken seriously, there should be no concerns about the cleaning of a superyacht’s hull. However, it is a risky operation and one that always necessitates the highest levels of attention for the safest possible outcome.