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Pre-Season Safety Update.

Pre Season Safety Update

A review of incident stats from 2023 and snippets from the MAIB Safety Digest 1/2024


Dart Harbour Incident statistics and trends from 2023

The year of 2023 saw a total of a total of 238 incidents reported to us, which is up from the 179 incidents reported in 2022, a 32% increase. Whilst this is a significant jump in reports, the incident reporting system was simplified and more widely published, including work within the commercial sector of the port, resulting in a 230% increase in commercial reports, which are greatly received.


Many of the reports were near misses, with no damage, injury, pollution, or interruptions to normal operations, but given a slight shift in time or position could have resulted in injury, damage etc. Of those that resulted in injury, 3 were on their own leisure vessels, and 2 on small passenger vessels. Passenger vessel operators are reminded to continually asses their boarding methods, and align where possible with best practice, including items such hand rails, or gangways.

Collisions, breakdowns and owners mooring gear failure.

The highest reported incidents were owners mooring gear failure (25 reports), breakdowns (28 reports – 10% of all incidents reported) and collisions & close quarters (40 reports). Many of these collisions or allisions were at low speed, and ultimately resulted due to a breakdown or owners mooring gear failure.

Vessel owners are reminded:

  • Ensure that their vessel and onboard machinery (engines, thrusters etc) are in a seaworthy condition prior to launching.
  • Their mooring gear, such as chains, ropes and shackles are in a good, serviceable condition. The river team will resecure lines when spotted, but ultimately the owner is responsible for monitoring their mooring lines.


A Snippet of the MAIB Safety digest 1/2024


The MAIB safety digest for the first quarter of 2024 has been released. This document is always an interesting read, allowing many types of water users to learn from the mistakes and incidents that others have made or been involved with. The entire document can be found here.

We have scoured through this edition and noted what we believe to be worthy reads for the type of incidents that could happen on the Dart, taking into consideration the types of operations within.

The intro from the Chief Inspector highlights the reoccurring trend, that many of the incidents they investigate, are a result of “the urge to press on and get the job finished, resulting in corners being cut, or the supervisor who either could not see the activity or had become directly involved instead of overseeing and finally inexperienced crew being unfamiliar with the task”. 

Whilst this is primarily related to the commercial side of boating, it is easy to think of examples where occurrences within leisure boating can happen due to rushing, skippers helping getting stuck in helping fenders, or crew that haven’t had a pre berthing discussion etc.

Lastly he writes – “Accidents can be avoided by ‘precautionary thought’ or, more simply, taking time to: review the task, what it involves and the risks; consider the team and whether they are properly trained and equipped; and, check that everyone understands their part in the plan”. Essentially this is a dynamic risk assessment, but taking the time to think about the task in hand can truly reduce the likelihood of incidents and accidents.

Noteworthy incidents within the digest.

High speed RIBs.

Following a boom in high speed RIB incidents, the MAIB are now suggesting the following advice: “If you are a rigid inflatable boat operator/owner, please ensure all on board have good seats with dedicated handholds, and that the speed of the craft is adjusted to suit the conditions.”  Many of the serious injuries reported to the MAIB are due to being seated in the front third of the overall length of the RIB, as the vertical motions experienced are generally greater towards the bow, or falling overboard from sitting on the sponson.

Drinking and driving.

Do not drink and drive. As with driving a car, alcohol can impair judgement, increase reaction times, lower inhibitions and increase confidence. The grounding on page 22, all the occupants had all consumed alcohol, including the driver, which might have affected decision-making capability and compromised the safe operation of the craft. The driver did not reduce the RIB’s speed to safely navigate the channel on approach to the marina and could not see the drying mud flats in the darkness.

Wearing the right gear.

Page 18 shares the story of a lone fisher shooting gear. The gear snagged, the fisherman tried to free the gear but had left the engine running ahead. Unfortunately they became trapped and the skipper was pulled out of the shooting door. The skipper managed to free their foot, but could not catch up with the vessel as it motored away and had to fight to stay afloat in the water with no means to raise the alarm: the skipper was not wearing either a personal locator beacon (PLB) or personal flotation device (PFD), both of which were stowed in the wheelhouse. The skipper was found in the water an hour later and airlifted to hospital, but unfortunately, could not be resuscitated.


As written above, many of the incidents we record on the Dart are due to mechanical failure, that could have been avoided, with the correct maintenance.

Page 11 tells about a heritage vessel started a short coastal passage to a specialist yard for refit and repair after a lengthy period in port. The voyage initially passed without incident, but intermittent main engine stoppages and generator problems started to increase in number during the afternoon. As evening approached, the main engine suddenly cut out and the vessel lost all power. Following a tow, the vessel found that many of the fuel system’s flexible hoses were found to have degraded, resulting in flaps of rubber detaching from the internal walls and acting like non-return valves.

Flexible hoses are prone to degradation. It is important to make sure there is compatibility between hose types and fuels and frequently check, and where necessary replace, hoses.

Keep a good lookout.

Page 2 describes a story of a large yacht that was under sail, with a dredger unbeknown to the yacht, heading on a collision course. The yacht watchkeeper had been alone at the helm for about 10 minutes when they saw the dredger come into view from behind the yacht’s sails. Unfortunately it was too late and the two collided.

The dredgers officer of the watch had become distracted, helping a colleague, and the sailing yacht had poor visibility behind the sails. Besides traffic avoidance, keeping a proper all-round lookout is vital to verify the navigational position of the vessel. A lone watchkeeper’s understanding of a situation can be greatly improved by additional assistance from a dedicated lookout.

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