Superyacht Accident Reporting - A P&I View

Posted: 23rd September 2017 | Written by: Louise Hall

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Part 13: Perspectives on Safety in Yachting
To see the full schedule click here.

Since the mid 1850’s the role of a P&I Club (Protection & Indemnity) has been to provide vessel operators with liability insurance which will protect them in the event of a claim in relation to cargo, collision, damage to/loss of property, people (including crew and passengers), pollution, towage and wreck removal.

Since then, the products and cover offered by P&I clubs have evolved to suit differing trade patterns and vessel types, regulatory changes and changing industry concerns such as fires on board yachts in heavily populated marinas.

However, at its core remains the ethos of assisting operators to go about their business or pleasure with the security of having 3rd party indemnity insurance.

With all insurance products come claims notifications. The Shipowners’ P&I Club (‘the Club’) uses this information to identify current Member or vessel sector trends and disseminates this information among its membership to assist raising awareness and to increase the level of safety on board. This procedure is in line with the requirements of the International Safety Management Code (ISM).

With this in mind, this article highlights the frequency and trends in claims recorded during the 2016 policy year.

As the chart below illustrates, the most frequent type of claim suffered on yachts entered with the Club was crew injury, followed by crew illness and then navigational related incidents.

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When reviewing this same set of data by quantum (illustrated in the chart below) it is apparent that the navigational claims are the most expensive at just over US$ 1million, followed by crew injury at US$ 366,331 and illness claims at US$ 108,830. 

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The data concludes that, while crew injury and crew illness incidents are the largest area of claim type by frequency, the most costly claims are those related to navigational incidents. This result is to be expected due to the expense of yacht repairs/ replacements and the cost is further increased by the likelihood of a a collision with another vessel in highly-populated marinas. 

What can be Learnt from these Claims Causations? 

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Crew Injury Claims

All but three crew injury claims recorded occurred when the crew member was transiting the vessel in line with the ordinary course of business. The incident types were slips, trips or falls. The reasons for the occurrence of these incidents include complacency in routine, vessel design and/or individual carelessness.

These small, indistinct claims mount up to the substantial value of US$ 366,331 and therefore it is imperative that efficient evidence recording of a claims incident is undertaken as the event occurs to ensure that good and accurate information is gathered to assist in the defence of the Member’s position.


Navigational Claims

Even though the Club has only recorded a relatively small number of navigational claims, with only 22 yachts suffering an incident in 2016, the current estimated cost to the Club will be US$ 1,082,021. The incidents included two groundings, two yachts that dragged anchor and the rest were navigational collision incidents with another vessel.

The vast majority of these claims were attributed to the human factor which in the Clubs terminology is defined as ‘when the incident was brought about by the failure of a crew member to take the reasonable care that a prudent person would be expected to exercise when undertaking a specific task.

It may involve the crew member failing to follow procedures, instructions or making an error in judgement (such as taking the correct course of action but failing to appraise the situation fully). A situation may arise whereby data given to the crew member is not acted upon correctly. Routine can also be a cause, whereby a task is repeatedly undertaken and for no apparent reason a deviation from the norm occurs’.

The question remains, what can be done about these types of incidents? This is an area discussed within in the article, within this series, Safe Navigation - What are we still failing to address? by Capt Adrian Croft.

The incident itself is the first part in the chain of events that follows and this is where the Club and P&I cover comes in. As mentioned above the ability of the Club to defend a claim depends greatly on the evidence and records that are made available to the Club, its lawyers, Correspondents and surveyors. In this regard, the role of the yacht’s crew at the time of an incident is of great significance.

It is essential that prompt action is taken to collect and preserve evidence that may assist in protecting the yacht owner and help in mitigating potential claims. The actions of the yacht’s crew in this task should be carried out irrespective of their view on the perceived seriousness of the incident as a number of cases, especially relating to personnel injury, may be raised many months or years after the alleged incident.

If this occurs, contemporaneous evidence is far more effective than evidence collected long after the incident has happened. Apart from assisting in the defence of a claim, evidence also plays a part in establishing and/or amending on board procedures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. This information can also be good source of training materials to lower the frequency of incidents.

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Louise Hall, Director - Loss Prevention, ShipOwners P&I Club

The Club has produced a publication providingdetailed information on Evidence Collection.

Evidence to be collected and preserved, irrespective of the type of incident, may include:

  • Statutory certificates.

  • Certificates of Class/certifying authority and last survey reports.

  • Yacht drawings/plans as relevant to the incident.

  • Verification of manning and rest hours in the form of the Safe Manning Certificate (as applicable), records of hours of rest/work and the prevailing crew list. 

  • Statement of facts. 

  • Witness statements. 

  • Log book entries. 

  • Accident investigation report. 

  • Photographs/CCTV. 

  • Company procedures/orders covering the situation.

  • In addition to the above, in the event of a personal injury:

  • Provide first aid on board and request for medical assistance as required. Additionally, take specific actions that are necessary on an individual case basis such as isolating or confining the patient. Records of all medication provided, advices sought and actions taken should be documented.

  • Notify, as required, the vessel owner/manager, charterer, flag State, local port authority and the local P&I Correspondent. 

  • Disembark the patient if they are not fit enough to remain on board. Prepare the documents including passport, seaman book, pre-joining medical report, on board medical history for disembarkation. 

  • Take photographs and/or videos relating to the incident. This could include photographs and/or videos of the scene of the incident including equipment if involved, to detail the safety measures that were in place. 

  • Statement of facts, where possible, should be prepared by the witness and/or the injured. This should be signed by the person preparing the statement and counter signed by the personnel taking the statement. 

  • An incident report should be prepared detailing the events leading up to the incident. This should include; the date, time of incident, details of the injured, extent of the injury, work being undertaken, safety measures in place (by means of permits to work, PPE used), and weather conditions. A similar report should be produced to determine the root cause of the incident. 

  • Record of hours of work/rest of the personnel involved in the incident. 

  • Details of any alcohol/drug tests carried out. 

  • In the event of a passenger injury, record in the log book and if possible, obtain a signed declaration from the passenger if the passenger refuses medical assistance.

  • In the event of a collision, grounding or contact with a fixed or floating object, please ensure the following:

  • Take appropriate action to minimise the damage. 

  • Obtain information such as identity, nature and extent of damage, name of Master.

  • Offer assistance to the other party, if required, provided such an action does not endanger your own vessel or crew. All such actions and offers to be recorded.

  • Notify, as required, the vessel owner/manager, charterer, local P&I Correspondent, terminal/opponent vessel (in the event of a collision or a STS operation), flag State and local port authority.

  • Save the VDR, S-VDR to prevent the overwriting of data.

  • Lodge a note of protest, if required. 

  • Take photographs/videos relating to the incident. These could include photographs/videos of the scene of the incident, prior to (when the incident is inevitable), during and after the incident

  • Statement of facts to be prepared by the witness. This should be signed by the person preparing the statement and counter signed by the personnel taking the statement.

  • An incident report should be prepared detailing the events leading up to the incident. This should include; the date, time of incident, details of the injured, extent of the injury, work being undertaken, safety measures in place (by means of permits to work, PPE used), and weather conditions. A similar report should be produced to determine the root cause of the incident.

  • Logs of checks, tests and maintenance of equipment and machineries (such as main engine, auxiliary engines, steering gear, mooring ropes, navigational equipment, anchor equipment).

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The following case study acts as a conclusion to this article as a way of highlighting how easily claims incidents can occur:

The Incident

A steward on board the vessel, washing the dishes as they usually did, poured some concentrated industrial detergent into an empty green mineral water bottle to assist in measuring the correct quantity to be put into the dishwashing machine. The partly filled drinking water bottle was then placed, without a label indicating its contents, near the galley sink.

The next day the unlabelled mineral water bottle, partly filled with detergent was put in the refrigerator, obviously having been mistaken for drinking water. Subsequently it was placed on the lunch table. As the detergent was odourless, an unsuspecting seaman poured it into a glass and took a few quick sips. He immediately became aware of an acute burning sensation in his mouth and throat.

Fortunately, the vessel was in port and he was sent ashore to the local clinic, however it was not equipped to handle such serious cases and the seaman had to be transported to a hospital in a larger town nearby. By that point, he was suffering from breathing problems, had a swollen tongue and a purple face.

The hospital managed to administer suitable treatment and confirmed that the seaman had suffered internal burns. His permanent disability was assessed at 7% and as a result of his injuries, he will suffer from a bitonal voice and slow digestion.

Observations

The use of a drinking water bottle for handling chemicals and also its careless stowage without any warning labels was the root cause of the incident. Furthermore, its storage within an area (the galley) where it was easily mistaken for drinking water was another major contributing factor.

Chemicals should only be stored in containers specifically designated and adequately marked for the purpose. They should not be handled in any containers that can be easily mistaken for anything else. Only the required quantity should be used and the remaining quantity, if possible, must be returned to its storage container. The mixing containers should be cleaned appropriately and stowed back in their designated place.

Financial cost: The total cost of this claim was US$ 71, 000.

The Club has produced a Loss Prevention Guidance for Yacht Owners that contains useful articles and advice.


About the Author:
Louise Hall has a sound marine background, having served at sea with a global container shipping line and worked as Cargo Planner, Operations Superintendent and Ship Manager. Louise has an MSC in Marine Surveying and has been with Shipowners P&I Club since 2006 where she is now the Director – Loss Prevention.

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