A failure to maintain a proper lookout was determined to be the cause of a fatal collision between a Boskalis dredger and sailing yacht near Felixstowe in June 2014, the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch has determined.
On Sunday June 8, 2014, the dredger Shoreway collided with the 31-foot sailing yacht Orca while both were underway at the entrance to the River Orwell about 7 miles from Felixstowe. The Orca sustained catastrophic damage in the collision and sank within minutes, killing a woman and a dog. The woman’s husband survived and was rescued by the crew of the Shoreway. The woman’s body was recovered from the vessel the following day and the cause of death was determined as drowning. The dredger was not damaged in the accident.
The MAIB investigation determined that neither the chief officer on watch on the dredger nor the skipper of the yacht were maintaining a proper lookout in the period immediately prior to the collision. The report noted the due to the dredger’s bow-mounted discharge equipment, the yacht was unseen until seconds before the collision.
The report said that the risk of other vessels, especially small craft, not being detected in the blind sector on Shoreway has never been assessed by the company or crew. The risk was not mentioned in the vessel’s computer based fleet-wide safety management system which was generic and of little benefit to the ship’s crew as it contained no vessel-specific information or guidance.
The key safety issues identified by MAIB were:
- The chief officer was alone on the bridge at the time of the collision, the skipper of Orca was below deck in the cabin, and neither were maintaining a proper lookout in the period immediately prior to the collision.
- The risks of vessels, especially small craft, not being detected in the blind sector on Shoreway had never been assessed by the company or the crew and the blind sector was not mentioned in the master’s standing orders or the vessel’s SMS.
- Leisure boat users should never assume they have been seen by other vessels, nor should they assume that the other vessels will always take avoiding action.
- Leisure sailors need to be particularly aware of closing speeds between their own vessels and other vessels. In this case, Shoreway was traveling at 12.9 knots but many types of vessels, including ferries, cruise ships and container ships, regularly sail at speeds over 25 knots and, as a result, distances that initially appear sufficient can be reduced surprisingly quickly.
The MAIB has recommended that Boskalis Westminster Shipping B.V. to improve its vessels’ safety management systems and addressing a technical issue regarding Shoreway’s VDR.
For his role in the accident, the chief mate, Gerardus Chapel, was handed a sentence of nine months in jail, which was reduced to six and suspended for 18 months, after pleading guilty to conduct endangering ships, structures or individuals under section 58 Merchant Shipping act 1995.