Following the Milly RIB accident in Cornwall last year, which caused two fatalities and two life-changing injuries, Falk alluded to the massive media interest that has come about as a result. There were a number of factors involved in the accident but the crucial factor was that the driver was not wearing a kill cord,” explains Falk. “This has led to a demand from the media for legislation enforcing the wearing of a kill cord. Though unfortunately there is no policing system which can implement this.”
Falk also added that, because there is no way of officially reporting on kill cord use, there are no real statistics on it but made reference to a recent survey conducted by the PYA. “Thirty per cent of surveyed superyacht captains and crew stated that kill cords are not used in their tenders,” he revealed, adding that the worrying statistic has to a plea for the industry to help. “There is no good reason not to wear a kill cord – it’s a no brainer. Captains make a huge difference by providing on board familiarisation training to new joiners and leading by example.”
“We thought that it would be a message that shouldn’t be too hard to get across but it is,” Falk admitting, revealing that a lot of contributing factors for this is the ‘it would never happen to me’ mentality, driving slowly and thinking that this does not necessitate a kill cord and if the sea state is not too bad. “It seems to be very hard to get to through to people that this is absolutely necessary,” Falk explained.
Also on the agenda was a catch up on the RYA Personal Watercraft Safety Course, which was designed specifically to provide some basic training for the operation of personal watercraft. “Yachts can be confident that their guests are going to be relatively safe because they have had some form of training before they are let loose on these high speed machines,” explained Falk. “There are now about 280 superyachts around the world that are RYA recognised training centres for PWC. This framework is now widely accepted by port authorities and insurers as effective at mitigating risk.”
"Polishing across the Atlantic is not valuable seatime for progressing towards the Yachtmaster.”
One common complaint from captains and some yacht managers regarding scheme is the requirement for an annual inspection, which also involves cost. “The whole process and value of this scheme rides on this inspection,” clarified Falk. “If someone can come in, look at your equipment, make sure there is a qualified instructor on board and make sure the correct procedures are in place, without this it is just a badge. The inspections add value.”
Adding some final food for thought for the industry, Falk discussed some of the common issues with Yachtmaster candidates from the superyacht sector. “Many have little or no command experience prior to the exam,” said Falk. “They have experience driving a tender, being lookout on the bridge, but most have never actually had any command experience. Polishing across the Atlantic is not valuable seatime for progressing towards the Yachtmaster.” And this problem ties in with the expectation that the RYA/MCA Yachtmaster is a course rather than a level of competence, and Falk admits that this could have a lot to do with the marketing of some training providers.
“Captains can help by mentoring and assisting junior crew,” said Falk, concluding the seminar with the message to the senior crew, managers and training providers that were in attendance that crew need to be given more responsibility and on board training.