One reason The Crew Report continues to publish accident report investigations from within the marine industry is because it firmly believes that these accidents reveal educational lessons for superyacht crew. However, accident reporting is a contentious topic in this industry. We hear from Captain David Durston, whose opinions are also based on his experience in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, about what the superyacht industry could do to improve its safety culture.

“There’s lots of good stuff going on. We’ve seen a lot of tightening of regulations which is good, but I don’t always see it being policed,” Captain David Durston tells The Crew Report. Improvements in safety often come, believes Captain Durston, from our own desire to learn from accidents that we have seen, whether ourselves or as reported in the media. “You can pull out parallels from other events and think, ‘How can I learn those things and put them back into my practice?' Because all accident reports can do is publish; they can’t cause you do adopt anything.”

However, while the industry would do well to continue to learn from accidents and their reports, relying on this form of education is reactive, not proactive, and the latter is what the industry should be aiming towards, believes Captain Durston. “If you go on holiday in an airliner, I think you’d be more comfortable in your passenger seat if you thought that you weren’t going to have to wait for something to go wrong before steps were taken to prevent them from doing so. I think you’d like a more proactive process of analysing what the markers and the trends are to see the occasions where a failure might come up, be that equipment, procedure or training ability. I don’t see enough of that in yachting,” he continues.

Captain Durston believes the industry is steering away from a blame culture, something he believes is a positive step – as long as steering away from a blame culture doesn’t lead to a lazy culture. “Certainly getting away from a blame culture to a learning culture is a tricky one, because while it tends towards less cover-ups to the good of all, if you are not careful it can be a licence to make mistakes and get away with it."

"Getting away from a blame culture to a learning culture is a tricky one, because while it tends towards less cover-ups to the good of all, if you are not careful it can be a licence to make mistakes and get away with it."

A culture of accident reporting is something the superyacht industry is slowly getting used to, and something on which The Crew Report continues to place importance, with regular analysis of MAIB and flag reports. And understanding just how crew can utilise accident reports, adds Durston, is key. “Communicating errors in a non pejorative way is quite important. If you look at complex accidents, it might be an accident in aircraft, shipping, railways; with virtually all the ones I can think of, many boil down to factors that all came together at the right or, exactly the wrong, time and sequence for the event to occur – any one of which might have prevented the final outcome. So the trick is to identify when things might have happened, because that one thing was probably in place that stopped it happening, but the other dozen factors may still have been raw and wide open waiting for an accident to happen. In that way, incidents or near-incidents can provide a plethora of invaluable lessons.”

One way to steer away from a blame culture is anonymity, but this has to be something everyone in the chain of reporting agrees upon, otherwise people will once again become scared of being blamed and suddenly their lips are sealed. “Anonymous reporting is a very fundamental part of pre-emptive action, to make sure that what might have been an incident doesn’t actually become one in the future. Having trust in a confidential system, accepting [your report] will probably be used on occasion and making sure there’s some leveling that goes on is not a bad process.”

In an industry that is increasingly under the eyes the mainstream media and that relies so heavily on word of mouth, for the good and the bad, it is understandable why accident reporting remains a contentious topic for superyacht crew. But surely anything that increases the safety of crew, guests and owners and can prevent incidents in the future is something the industry should be talking about loudly.

The Crew Report
would be interested in hearing your thoughts on how accident reporting could benefit the industry; please comment below.

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