The director of the firm that managed the Cheeki Rafiki yacht has been charged with manslaughter after it capsized in 2014, killing all of its four crew.

The 40ft yacht had been missing in the North Atlantic when it was found with no sign of its crew in May 2014. The yacht had been returning from Antigua Sailing Week to Southampton when it capsized.

Douglas Innes is charged with four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence and will appear at Southampton Magistrates' Court on 3 November, 2016. Innes and his company, Stormforce Coaching, are also charged with breaking merchant shipping laws.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has said it had carried out an investigation lasting over two years into the circumstances surrounding the loss of Cheeki Rafiki.

In the initial 2015 Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report, the MCA came into the line of fire, with insinuations that complex and vague commercial versus pleasure craft definitions allowed the boat to slip through the survey net.

The report also covered the construction of Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) hulls in considerable detail and highlighted the hidden menace of the internal matrix detaching from the hull, which can only be properly established with a thorough survey by an appropriately qualified person. 

For the superyacht sector, and the maritime industry as a whole, the news should be a salutary reminder of the importance of proper maintenance and inspection by qualified people. Surveyor Captain Ed Geary believes that these charges are an important step as it confirms that his original belief that gross negligence was at play.

“While it took some time for the MCA to reach their conclusions, the results confirm their efficiency and thoroughness in the investigations of maritime casualties,” says Geary. “These charges alert the whole maritime industry to the importance of proper maintenance and inspection by qualified people.

“While the successful prosecution of those responsible won’t bring back the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki, it will always serve as a reminder of the fatal results that can occur because of negligent surveys, poor care, and the lack of maintenance.”

Don't miss the incident reporting workshop on day three of the Global Superyacht Forum - more information here.


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