19th January 2023

Dangerous recovery of a person in the water

Initial Report

During tender training in port, while making an approach, the helm discovered that the controls did not respond as expected because the throttle actuator had broken. The helm applied astern propulsion to slow the tender; this resulted in greater forward motion. The tender inevitably collided with another moored vessel, and the force of the impact threw the training officer into the water. They recovered themselves back into the tender by climbing up the stern drive props, which could have caused the trainer serious injury.

CHIRP Comment

Although the trainer was undoubtedly in shock having been thrown overboard, the decision to get back onboard by climbing up the stern propulsion system was exceptionally dangerous, particularly given that the actuator had failed. The helm that remained on board should have directed the trainer away from the stern to get back on board the tender from the side of the tender using a recovery ladder.

Key Issues relating to this report

Situational Awareness: Situational awareness can be seriously affected when stress is high. While getting back on board, the tender may have been more accessible via the stern drive props; it was the most dangerous access point.

Pressure: Under time pressure to get out of the water, the training officer chose the most dangerous option to climb out. Even when the engine is in neutral, propellors can sometimes turn sufficiently fast to cause significant trauma.

Complacency: Before making an approach, it is advisable to check that the control systems and steering are functioning as expected. The tender’s controls should
always be tested at the commencement of any operation and verified as functioning.

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