The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has recently released their annual report for 2013. The main purpose of MAIB is to examine and investigate all types of marine accidents to, or on board, UK ships worldwide, and other ships in UK territorial waters. The Crew Report has always endeavoured to publish MAIB reports where parallels can be drawn with the superyacht industry in the hope that lessons can be learned. By continuing to do this, we hope that a culture of incident and near-miss reporting will be encouraged amongst superyacht crew so that safety can be improved across the board.

“The investigations commenced and the reports published by the Branch during 2013 have been diverse and have covered all sectors of the maritime industry,’ explains Steve Cinch, chief inspector of MAIB, summarising the trends MAIB has observed following the incidents which occurred in 2013. “For approximately a third of these, the failure to wear personal flotation devices, inadequate appreciation of stability issues and an absence of general emergency preparedness contributed to avoidable losses, deaths and injuries.”

Highlighting several important incidents from the past year, Cinch observes some crucial areas of improvement for the maritime industry with regards to safe operations. “The grounding of two cargo vessels … once more highlighted the problem of fatigue on vessels which operate with only two bridge watchkeepers,” he says. “The watchkeepers on both vessels were asleep when they ran aground and neither had posted an additional lookout as required by international regulations. The same issues were previously identified by the MAIB in 2004 following publication of its Bridge Watchkeeping Safety Study when it was recommended that international action be taken to improve the minimum safe manning levels for ships. Nearly 10 years on, the situation remains unchanged, and accidents continue to occur because sole watchkeepers on the bridges of the vessels concerned are severely fatigued. Such vessels are, in reality, akin to unguided missiles and it is only a matter of time before there is a major accident involving loss of life or pollution.”

“In May [2013], six members of the same family were ejected from the RHIB Milly when the boat was travelling at speed in the Camel Estuary in Cornwall,” Clinch continues. “Two died and two more were severely injured when they were struck by the RHIB as it continued to proceed at speed on a circular course with no one in the boat. Further injuries and worse were only avoided by the brave actions of several members of the public who brought the RHIB to a stop and also tended to the surviving family members’ most severe injuries while still in the water. The accident, which received considerable press coverage, highlighted the importance of the use of kill cords when operating high-powered craft.”

"The failure to wear personal flotation devices, inadequate appreciation of stability issues and an absence of general emergency preparedness contributed to avoidable losses, deaths and injuries.”

Recommendations are a key element of MAIB investigations and are issued to promulgate the lessons from accidents investigated, with the aim of improving the safety of life at sea and the avoidance of future accidents. MAIB makes clear in all its investigations that the issue of a recommendation shall in no case create a presumption of blame or liability and are made to a variety of addressees who might have been involved in, or have an interest in, the accident.

The Crew Report
recognises the importance of such reports that may otherwise go unnoticed by the majority of today’s crew and the benefit they could have by being shared. Given the private nature of the superyacht industry, however, we rarely see reports or near-miss accounts from our sector. While it is not the purpose of the investigations to determine liability or blame, by sharing past incidents involved in the operations of superyachts, others can learn from them and build on safety awareness. Reports such as these, if encouraged in the superyacht world, can increase the awareness of what could go wrong and help others to avoid similar situations on board. Join our debate on such incident reporting here.

MAIB’s annual report can be read here.