Following the publication of 'Yacht Managers Meet in the Name of Safety', regular contributor, Butch Dalrymple-Smith contacted Superyacht News and requested the republication of a column he wrote on the same subject, in order to 'shine a spotlight' on this important topic...
With respect to reporting of accidents or defects, the yachting industry has a lesson to learn from the aviation and automotive fields.
If an aircraft has an accident, relevant details, without revealing any identities except the aircraft manufacturer and model, are promulgated as widely and as early as possible, taking care to ensure that the operators of similar aircraft are informed. In this way everyone is given the opportunity to revise their procedures or the design of their equipment before further accidents occur. And in the automobile industry, discovery of a potentially dangerous defect is followed by recalling all affected vehicles to put the matter right.
In contrast, an incident involving a yacht is kept confidential because keeping it quiet is in the short term interests of owner, captain, builder, manager, broker and designer- indeed, anyone who may actually know the facts. No-one wants to admit that their product might fail, that the next charter may be interrupted by immobilisation of the vessel, that the captain may be less than fully competent or that the yacht is anything less than perfectly safe. Besides which, failures are frequently followed by law suits and any details already in the public domain may prejudice the outcome.
The result of this policy of silence is that after any incident, rumours become rife and gossip spreads quickly. Reputations are destroyed in absentia as guesses and conjecture replace honest objective analysis. The result is that lessons are not learned and faulty details may be repeated for many years in subsequent yachts.
This taboo needs to be abandoned in the interest of preventing further failures and their expensive or dangerous outcomes.