20th May 2024

Damage to a tender under tow

Initial Report

Upon approaching an anchorage with a 38ft tender in tow, the crew noticed the tender sitting low in the water and assumed it was sinking. The master was notified by radio,
and the chief officer ran to the aft to assess. The chief officer noticed that the speed reduction (when approaching the anchorage) was causing the tender to sink, so he requested that the captain increase speed again and not enter the anchorage.
Another yacht’s tender noticed the problem and came over to offer assistance. Two crew members were transferred to the other yacht’s tender, taking fenders and a pump.
As the crew approached the towed tender, it was apparent that the side boarding door was slightly ajar. A crew member was transferred to the towed tender and was able to shut the door. With the boat’s movement through the water, the tender soon emptied via the aft scuppers and freeing ports. The tender was saved, although the engines were flooded.

CHIRP Comment

The crew on the towing vessel and the response team are to be praised for their good actions, especially the officer’s quick thinking and seamanship skills, preventing a more
serious situation. As demonstrated in this case, proper training and expertise onboard are crucial for handling unforeseen incidents effectively.

The failure to secure the tender for towing during pre-departure checks and procedures underscores the importance of thorough preparation and adherence to good seamanship. Implementing a checklist that cross-checks the towed vessel’s watertight integrity could prevent similar incidents in the future. Additionally, considering weather conditions and setting appropriate limits for towing operations are other essential safety measures which must be considered.
CHIRP recommends rigging a camera on the tender for visual monitoring during towing. This would enhance safety and situational awareness, allowing for timely adjustments to course and speed and interventions if necessary.

Key Issues relating to this report

Capability – The crew checking the tender before towing paid insufficient attention to its watertight integrity. The flooding of the engine compartment shows the consequences of this omission, which could have been much worse. Do you have a checklist for your towing operations?
Situational Awareness – When towing, consider the bigger picture and conduct a risk assessment to ensure all hazards are considered. Is towing a tender part of your SMS?

  • Capability
  • Situational Awareness