The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released a report following a commercial incident where the bulk carrier Amber made contact with moored craft and grounded on the south shore of the River Thames shortly after departing from its berth. The actions which led to the incident occurring can be analysed and reflected on the superyacht industry. The Crew Report speaks to Adrian McCourt, managing director of Watkins Superyachts, about the lessons that can be drawn from this commercial accident.

The MAIB investigation found that the accident was caused by the bridge team’s loss of situational awareness as the vessel left the berth in restricted visibility. The roles and responsibilities of the bridge team had not been confirmed before departure, no continuous radar watch was kept and the vessel’s position, course and speed were not effectively during the manoeuvre. "A routine mooring operation, albeit in poor visibility, became something of a manoeuvring nightmare and resulting in contact with moored barges and grounding," observes McCourt. "It is easy for those of us behind a desk to be smart, but there are clear lessons to be learned from this. Fortuitously, there was no injury or serious damage"

"There is a whiff of commercial pressure – albeit unproven and my opinion only – that all parties seemed to be aware and voicing their understanding that the power station was close to running on fumes, which may have influenced sailing in poor visibility," McCourt continues. "Add poor bridge organisation – one of the bridge team still fiddling with radar setting as they were letting go – to a general lack of situational awareness, and this went from picnic to panic in just nine minutes."

"In the large yacht business, we are rarely blessed with pilots and tugs. But it is essential that when they are engaged, a proper pre-departure briefing takes place."

The report goes on to conclude that the lack of a pre-departure briefing was one of the main factors that led to the incident. "The poor communications that characterised this accident can be attributed to the initial failure at the briefing stage to assign appropriate roles and responsibilities within the bridge team to manage a port departure in restricted visibility," the MAIB report reveals. "This in turn resulted in poor situational awareness that resulted in team members acting in isolation as they thought best, but without fully communicating their actions to the other team members or assisting tug.”

And this is where we can project some of the findings onto the superyacht industry. "In the large yacht business, we are rarely blessed with pilots and tugs," adds McCourt. "But it is essential that when they are engaged, a proper pre-departure briefing takes place. I recently spoke to a senior pilot in a commercial port who lamented that such briefings usually only take place when an ISM auditor is on board. Pilots are professional people and will engage professionally."

The full MAIB report of the incident can be read here.

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