This report concerns 12m fast patrol craft which are employed under a contract requiring them to operate in conditions up to Douglas Sea State 5 i.e. waves up to 4m. These boats were purchased as replacements without consulting the people involved. The boats are not bad, but they are not suitable for sustained operations in a 4m sea and crew have been injured. The defects include the pneumatic seats bottoming out in rough weather and insufficient hand holds.
Despite being certificated under the Small Craft Code by a Classification Society, it turned out, when checked by someone else, that the boats don’t comply. Having said that no modifications could be made which would enable the boats to operate in the contracted sea state.
Management have acknowledged complaints and have agreed to make incidental changes, but their position is complicated by the fact that the contract contains penalties for the times the boats are not operating and the crew feel under pressure to operate in conditions which the boats are not suitable for.
The contracted sea state should be, at maximum 4 and more appropriately 3 on the Douglas Scale.
This report involved CHIRP fielding a considerable amount of correspondence. The safety issues had become complicated to a greater or lesser extent by a number of factors including the certification of the boats.
During the correspondence it became evident that a procedure existed within the company safety management system allowing the Master of the craft to declare himself weather bound (thus potentially mitigating the injury risk).
The Maritime Advisory Board in reviewing the issues raised put the arguments about the suitability and certification of the craft aside and focussed on this procedure which proved to be the key to resolving the safety concern.
The company re-stated in writing that safety was paramount and the procedure was subsequently operated successfully over the winter period.
The company also made an undertaking to review the wording of the “Weather Bound Procedure”” to ensure it was understood by all that commercial considerations should not adversely influence safety imperatives at any time.