01 August 2015
Accident & Repair – Technical Report (BYS)
Before we examine safety issues and the occurrence of accidents on boardsuperyachts in detail, it’s important to defi ne what these terms actually mean. Safety, for the purposes of this article, is defined as: “The condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury”, and accidents as: “Incidents that happen unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury”. In order to minimise the risk of accidents, which can happen at any time, safety must dominate all areas of superyacht operations at all times. The global superyacht fl eet has changed dramatically in the last decade, growing in both number and size. Larger superyachts are, in general, more complex than smaller superyachts; the equipment and machinery on board is more sophisticated and powerful, they usually carry a greater number of passengers and they are expected to sail without limitations. We believe that because of these developments the risk of accidents increases if the attention paid to safety is not increased in tandem. As a result of their increasing size and complexity, yachts are becoming more akin to ships. Subsequently, the superyacht industry is learning to adapt commercial ships’ safety rules to apply to superyacht design, construction and operations. We believe that superyacht crew could learn similar lessons about operational safety from commercial shipping’s approach to safety practices. Policy makers and influencers have achieved a great deal over the last decade in their mission to raise the level of safety on board vessels of any kind. Superyachts are designed and built to comply with more stringent safety rules with the introduction of the Large Yacht Codes, MLC and the PYC. Levels of crew qualifi cation have increased over the years and the ISM code for commercial superyachts, with a gross tonnage greater or equal to 500gt, has been introduced, establishing a minimum safety standard. We believe there are at least three main areas where operational safety could be improved and where there is something to learn from commercial shipping’s approach, namely: main risks and cause of accidents in normal operations, risks to personnel and risks during refit.
THE MAIN RISKS AND CAUSE OF ACCIDENTS IN NORMAL OPERATIONS
During a yacht’s standard lifecycle, a number of types of incidents can occur. Among them, in normal operation, the most common are fire and accidents that cause water ingress. The analysis of insurance casualties (based on our database), with a cost greater than $250,000, found that between 2000 and 2013 fire casualties account for 24 per cent and water ingress (caused by incidents such as grounding, collision and capsizing) account for 45 per cent of all accidents. These statistics include both casualties while the yacht is operational and accidents during refits. Although the press reports fires on board refits one to three times a year, sometimes with more than one yacht involved, it is likely that there are more minor unreported fires.Luckily, in the past few years, there has been no loss of human life caused by fire on board superyachts. However, the financial consequences are often devastating. The main causes of water ingress are: breach to the hull due to collision or grounding, faulty shell doors or extremely rough sea conditions.
READINESS OF ALL SAFETY EQUIPMENT AND PROMPT RESPONSE TO AN EMERGENCY ARE KEY TO LIMITING INJURIES, LOSS OF HUMAN LIFE AND PHYSICALDAMAGE IN THE CASE OF AN ACCIDENT. REGULAR MAINTENANCE OF ALL SAFETY EQUIPMENT, CREW TRAINING AND DRILLS ARE THE PILLARS OF PREPARATION FOR AN EMERGENCY.
The damage stability standards between shipsandyachtsdiffer.Yachtsthatcarry up to 12 passengers are designed to resist minor damage when their length is less than 85m, and for 85m+, the damage of one compartment. Commercial ships are designed and built to comply with a higher standard driven by the damage stabilityprobabilistic assessment. The differences between yachts and commercial ships in design safety standards and construction are often dictated by reasons of practicalityand are partially justified by the different operational profiles of the two types ofvessels. Yachts are normally operational for far less time over the course of the year than commercial ships, and without the same commercial pressure. However, considering these differences in construction safety standards, you
should naturally place more emphasis on the preparation for emergencies in the superyacht world. Readiness of all safety equipment and prompt response to an emergency is key to limiting injuries and fatalities. Regular maintenance of all safety equipment, crew training and drills are the pillars of preparation for an emergency.
The provision of a safety equipment maintenance plan is included in the planned maintenance system and training, followed by regular drills, are normally part of a yacht’s maintenance safety management system which is required by ISM. However, on yachts it is sometimes difficult to effectively enforce these ISMprovisions. This is partly because ISM provisions are often too general to beeffective, partly because crew perceive the possibility of risk as being very low, and partly because the often informal relationships between crew members and their officers can render training and drills ineffective. In order to counteract this, and improve yacht safety, it is very important that the captain is assisted by the yacht manager and marine consultants in the review of the safety equipment maintenance plan and crew safety training and drills. The safety equipment should be regularly tested. Regular external audits carried out by the yacht manager and/or marine consultants should also include safety equipment tests and drills being carried out both in low and high season.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT AREA OF SAFETY ON BOARD IS THE RISK TO PERSONNEL DURING YACHT OPERATIONS AND MANOEUVRES. OPERATING THE TENDER, MOORING, MANOEUVRIN AND HELICOPTER OPERATIONS HAVE ALL REGISTERED REPEAT ACCIDENTS, SOME OF THEM FATAL. IT IS NOT UNCOMMON TO SEE YACHT CREW ENGAGED IN THESE ACTIVITIES AND NOT WEARING ANY TYPE OF SAFETY PROTECTION.
RISKS TO PERSONNEL AND CREW PERSONAL INJURY
Another important area of safety on board is the risk to personnel during yacht operations and manoeuvres. Operating the tender, mooring, manoeuvring and helicopter operations have all registered repeat accidents, some of them fatal. It is not uncommon to see yacht crew engaged in these activities and not wearing any type of safety protection. They climb under tenders that weigh a few tons or anchor windlasses barefoot and without protection. These exercises are often conducted without following the relevant safety procedure simply because the crew is not trained to follow the correct procedures.
This is unheard of in commercial ship operations, where nobody would carry out potentially risky operations without adequately protecting themselves. There is a huge operational safety culture difference between the commercial marine and superyacht sectors. One reason for this difference is the service profile ofsuperyachts – they operate in holiday destinations in a leisure environment, where hardly anyone wears personal safety equipment. Although we believe it would bedifficult to convince yacht crew to wear full personal safety equipment specifically for these reasons, we are confident that more can be done to develop and implementeffective operational procedures and safe working practices. Helicopter operations require dedicated training and regular drills. In the case of private yachts with non-certified helidecks and refuelling facilities we would recommend that an operational and safety manual should be prepared by a helicopter operations specialist. The manual should include, at the very least, operational procedures for landing, takeoff, refuelling and guidelines for responding to accidents and emergencies. This would ensure that in the absence of safety certifi cation (compulsory for commercially operated yachts and ships) a minimum standard of safety that takes into account the limitations of a non-certified helideck is maintained. In our opinion, the captain would benefit from the assistance of a helicopter operations specialist to carry out the crew’s initial training and regularly assist with safety drills.
YACHT OWNERS, CAPTAINS AND MANAGERS COULD BENEFIT FROM A SAFETY AUDIT CARRIED OUT BY A PROFESSIONAL MARINE CONSULTANT FORALL OPERATIONS, AS WELL AS REFITS
RISKS DURING REFIT
Safety during a refit should take into account some specific risks. In our experience the more frequent refit-related risks are fire and crew personal injury. Almost every single year for the last 10 years, we have recorded at least one serious accidentcaused by fire on a superyacht undergoing a refit. The causes have varied fromelectrical fault, hot work being carried out on combustible material, and cigarettes. In many of these cases there was little the crew could have done to avoid or containthe fire. During a refit the responsibility for preventing and fighting fires falls on the refit yard. Moreover, during refits, particularly when a yacht is drydocked, the on-board firefighting system is not functioning; therefore any fire fighting relies on the refit yard’s system. However, the captain and manager can take a number of steps toimprove fire safety, including verifying the yard’s safety track records, assessing thespecific refit yard’s general fire-fighting capabilities, as well as their hot work procedures. Some insurance companies include a survey that specifically assesses safety and risk during the refit as a prerequisite for issuing a refit (builder) risk policy to the yard. Yacht owners, captains and managers could benefit from a safety audit carried out by a professional marine
consultant for all operations, as well as refits. Personal injury and fatalities of yacht crew during refit and construction aresadly not uncommon. Purely considering my personal experience, I can count three serious accidents, two being fatal. The main cause of accidents is the improper use or construction of scaffolding, followed by accidents caused by crew carrying out work in the refit yard. During refit work, crew members tend to use scaffolding as a shortcut to reach various parts of the yacht, often without adequate lighting, especially if they have to be on board in the evening.
The use of scaffolding to access the yacht should be avoided or minimised as much as possible. Only designated access routes should be taken by the crew and withsufficient illumination. In our experience some crew members undertake work, for instance the use of power tools and lifting apparatus, without wearing protection or knowing how to safely carry out the tasks required for completing the specific work. Crew working in a refit yard should wear suitable personal safety equipment and should be aware and trained in appropriate safe working practices. In all phases of the yacht’s lifecycle it is possible to enhance safety and reduce the likelihood of accidents. Much has been done by the superyacht industry to improve the safety of yachts through the design, construction and operational phases, transferring and adapting the safety expertise gained over the centuries by the commercial marine sector.
We believe that yachts are not unsafe compared with commercial ships but, in order to maintain and enhance their levels of safety, it is necessary to improve the safety culture of yacht crew and ultimately the entire operational profile of the yacht. The ISM code prescribes most of the processes that we advocate in this article. However, it is very difficult to translate its guidelines into actual safety if the crew does not believe that the risks are real: accidents can happen and it is part of their job to avoid them. Yacht captains are ultimately responsible for safety on board and are the leaders who can turn safety regulations into a safety procedure and ethos, and ultimately improve the safety culture on board.
This report has been published as an article in Speryacht Report, August 2015 Issue 156