6 things you should know about superyacht crew safety

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Windlass snapback zones are recommended

A recent report from the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands has linked the crew death on Ocean Victory to the catastrophic failure of a windlass brake.

Questions have been raised about crew safety recently, as this fatality came less than 12 months after a  Kibo crewmember was seriously injured in a fall from the 82 metre yacht. Earlier last year, in May 2015, an inquest ruled that the  death of a deckhand on luxury yacht Faith in 2013 was accidental.

The report from the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands concluded: “Anchoring is a routine activity carried out on all ships, however the potential hazards should be rigorously assessed and all identified risks mitigated as far as possible. Danger areas and snapback zones around anchoring equipment should be identified and clearly marked."

The Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands also recommended that anchoring procedures should only be carried out by properly qualified and experienced personnel who are aware of the potential hazards.

Read on to see five more things each yacht owner must know about crew safety.

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Plenty of crew safety guidelines exist, but they need to be followed

“Some think the ISM Code is a best practice, but it’s a minimum standard,” says Derek Smith of Hill Robinson Yacht Management. “Previous [safety] legislation was reactive, ISM aims to be proactive.” Smith notes that compared to other codes, such as SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) or STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping), ISM is meant to be easy to comprehend and enforce."

Here are the many organisations that might weigh in on crew safety guidelines:

ISM Code (the International Safety Management Code from the International Maritime Organisation)

SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea)

STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping)

Lloyds class

MCA Large Yacht Code

• Guidelines from your flag state

• Compliance followed by yacht management companies

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A strong culture of crew safety needs to come from the top down

Crew safety regulations and guidelines aren’t always enough. It’s how the codes and operating systems are implemented that can make the difference to crew safety. This needs to come from the top – from the captain down.

Crew should be encouraged to report anything that isn’t up to standard instead of being reprimanded; safety should be a team effort.

“[Safety is] a culture that pervades throughout everyone on board,” says Derek Smith. “There needs to be continual improvement.”

Instead of being an overly serious topic, with crew feeling punished when standards aren't adhered to, safety should be a team effort where the crew constantly aim for improvement.

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Post-accident analysis is vital

One of the best ways to ensure crew safety is to conduct a post-accident analysis and learn from your findings.

“You can bet every yacht manager in the world is looking at their working over the side [of the yacht] procedures right now,” says Derek Smith, days after a crewmember fell when painting the side of Kibo.

“Prior to becoming a broker, I worked on yachts full time for 12 years as crew and captain logging over 100,000 miles on both sail and powerboats,” said Jeff Partin of Camper & Nicholsons “My personal experience was that most accidents were typically caused by inexperience, not paying attention, or acting in haste.”

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The yacht owner is liable for the safety of his crew

“Essentially any yacht owner as an employer has to provide a safe environment in which to work,” says John Leonida, partner of law firm Clyde & Co. “Yes, there are risks associated with being at sea, but owners are liable in the ways they organise the yacht.

"They may be beautiful beasts, but a yacht is also a place where people can trip over ropes, where davits can break – it’s all about risk assessment.”

If you don’t uphold crew safety, you leave yourself exposed to a law suit should anything go wrong.

“Act as a responsible owner so no one can accuse you otherwise,” says Leonida. “Follow the regulations on safety, have full or mini-ISM Codes in place, make sure your captain keeps a clean ship, make sure there are regular safety drills – and document all of that.”

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Regulation isn't everything; personal responsibility should prevail

“We don’t necessarily need more regulation and oversight. Individual responsibility goes along way, and crew should look out for each other – help your crew mate get home safely,” says Jeff Partin. "The most obvious thing is to be aware of potential hazards whether onboard or ashore and simply use common sense.”

The end game is that crew safety on board superyachts comes from all angles: regulations, owners, captains and the crew themselves. By being aware, working together and promoting common sense and a culture of safety, accidents on board can be prevented.

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