Yachting News » Of Interest » Safety questions raised after luxury yacht crewman died in Sydney Harbour

Safety questions raised after luxury yacht crewman died in Sydney Harbour

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Crew members on board a luxury yacht that was involved in a fatal collision in Sydney Harbour last year were not given adequate guidance under the vessel's safety management system, a report has found.

A Queensland man, who was the ship's assistant engineer, was crushed to death between the Glebe Island Bridge and the 42-metre motor yacht, named Calliope, as it attempted to navigate through the narrow opening on February 8 last year.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report into the fatal accident released on Monday found that the Cayman Islands-registered vessel was off course and veering towards the bridge when the assistant engineer leaned over the side of the yacht to position a fender - a bumper used to prevent damage to the side of a boat.

The report said the man was distracted by what he was doing and did not notice that the Calliope was closing in on one of the bridge's mounted fenders. The man, aged in his late 20s or early 30s, was crushed between the fender and the yacht before falling into the water in front of his crewmates. He died from his injuries.

glebe island bridge

The ATSB report found that the Calliope's safety management system "did not provide the crew with adequate guidance or contain specific requirements regarding passage planning, training and familiarisation".

A passage plan was not completed for the voyage from Rozelle Bay out through the Glebe Island Bridge to the yacht's intended destination of Broken Bay, north of Sydney, the report said.

The report also found that the yacht's master had not taken into account daylight savings time when calculating the tidal conditions for the intended transit through the bridge.

"This resulted in an erroneous belief that the tide was just beginning to flood when it was actually just finishing the ebb," the report said.

"In accordance with his usual practice for day trips, the master considered a passage plan unnecessary for the voyage on 8 February due to the perceived simplicity of the voyage.

"However, the completion of a passage plan would have probably ensured that the risks associated with transiting the Glebe Island Bridge, Sydney Harbour and the ocean passage to Broken Bay were appropriately considered and effectively treated."

The lack of a passage plan meant "the risks associated with the voyage were not identified or assessed, contingencies were not considered and the crew were not appropriately briefed," the report found.

The Calliope had arrived in Sydney from Auckland on February 7, and the crew was planning to take the yacht's owners and their guest for a cruise around Sydney Harbour before heading north on the day of the accident.

glebe island bridge warning sign

The yacht was classified as a recreational craft, and therefore was not required to carry a pilot, as commercial vessels of a similar size are.

The ATSB said this was the case "even though the risks it posed to the port were the same as those posed by a similarly sized commercially operated vessels".

Marine Construction Management, a US company that manages Calliope, said in response to the ATSB report that, since the accident, Calliope’s master was now required to submit passage plans to the company for every journey, regardless of its duration.

"A written procedure for transiting bridge openings would also be written and implemented as part of the ongoing development of the SMS [safety management system]," the company said.

"The company has also engaged the services of a specialist consultant to conduct on board audits of the implementation and continuing use and development of the SMS."

The ATSB said the company's actions should address the safety issue.

*Image credits:  Lawrence Wang, Maarjara and Newtown Graffiti via flickr (CC 2.0)
*Original story: Sydney Morning Herald via Google News (search term: yacht)
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