M1968 – Tender grounds on (charted!) submerged rock
The vessel was at anchor in an enclosed bay in the Pacific, running tender operations to the yacht club pontoon. The pontoon was in sight of the vessel and had been running tender operations several times a day for several days.
During one of the transits the tender ran aground on a submerged rock. The boat and crew were recovered by another tender and nobody was injured. The tender only suffered minor damage and was quickly returned to service.
On investigation, it was discovered that the parent vessel’s ECDIS did in fact indicate a hazard in the vicinity but this had been missed. No passage plan had been drawn up for the tender runs, no review of the potential charted dangers, no assessment of chart accuracy and quite a lot of complacency because the tender run was line-of-sight. The tender was fitted with a chart plotter but it was not switched on at the time of the incident.
The tempo of SY operations can mean that it feels like there is no time to draw up or brief a passage plan. When tender operations are frequent, and especially if thing never or rarely go wrong, it can be tempting to think that a plan isn’t even necessary. This can lead to important safety information being missed, as in this case. Over-confidence can also lead to simple tasks being overlooked; in this incident the tender’s chart plotter was not switched on.
Even so, it is important that the tender crew are briefed beforehand, wherever possible.
Ideally this should be on the bridge using the ECDIS and this has the secondary advantage that the bridge often provides the best view over the closer parts of the planned route. With a simple passage plan in place, the first crew ashore (ideally more experienced crewmembers) will be able to lay a track on the tender’s chart plotter for other crew to follow over the following hours or days.
At the very least, the tender crew should take a few moments to assess the proposed route on the chart plotter (or a navigation app) to ensure that it is safe and to identify any navigational hazards.
Human factors and other issues identified in this report
Situational awareness – Tender crews should have access to a means of maintaining navigational situational awareness. While not recommended, even a marine navigation app on a smart phone is better than nothing!
Complacency – A lesson from the aviation industry is that even routine tasks can benefit from a check-off list or aide memoire (pilots use one for every take-off and landing even if they’re flying every day!)
Communications – Consider requesting a positional check from the parent vessel if in any doubt about the proximity of navigational hazards. Because the lookout/bowman may see a hazard before the helm does, communications on board are important too.
Teamwork – In small teams there is a risk that everyone assumes that others “Just know what to do; a brief isn’t necessary”. Could this have been a factor in this case?