Adrian McCourt, managing director of Watkins Superyachts, has used two incidents from the commercial sector and applied them to the yachting industry in order to highlight valuable safety lessons to the captains and crew in his fleet. “The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published a single report on two separate incidents which both occurred on 21 November, 2012, both involving wind-farm service craft suffering contact damage, which share many common safety issues pertinent to the yachting industry, and this does include those driving larger tenders.”

The first incident involved in the report involves the investigation of the contact with a floating target by the wind farm passenger transfer catamaran Windcat 9 while transiting Donna Nook Air Weapons Range in the southwest approaches to the River Humbler. The vessel in question was on autopilot when the master was demonstrating to the trainee master how to adjust the plotter’s range. In doing so he inadvertently moved the route, which resulted in a collision.

The investigation found that the master did not hold the correct qualifications and that navigation practices, including passage planning and monitoring, use of lookouts and knowledge of the navigation equipment were weak. In addition the company’s crew assessment procedures were not followed and the master had not been formally assessed to determine his suitability for his role.

The second is an investigation of Island Panther, which made heavy head-on contact with the unlit transition piece of a turbine. The investigation determined that the accident occurred because the master had relied too heavily on visual cues and had made insufficient use of the lookout and navigation equipment available. There was insufficient training, particularly in regard to navigation equipment, and no formal assessment of new masters, allowing the possibility of ingrained poor working practices being passed on.

“Both investigations have highlighted a need for appropriate manning, training and assessment procedures."

“Both investigations have highlighted a need for appropriate manning, training and assessment procedures,” explains McCourt. “In both cases here, masters lost their situational awareness because the passage was not being properly monitored. Oddly enough, one is panned by the MAIB for an inadequate visual lookout whilst the other was criticised for relying solely on a visual lookout, but the reader will make the distinction.”

“Charts, which have not been appropriately maintained up to date, are also route one for an investigator and should be a no-brainer for a vessel working in the same area day after day,” he continues. “Audit and assessment of masters and lookouts are not always fully maintained in the large yacht sector, but do provide us with means to reduced risk profiles. Attention needed by us as managers and by self-managing captains.”

As there is no formal incident reporting system for superyachts, it is even more important for the industry to continue looking to the commercial industry to analyse and learn from mistakes made. The full MAIB report released on both incidents can be read here.

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