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What happened

On the afternoon of 8 February 2013, the 42 m Cayman Islands registered motor yacht Calliope departed from the Sydney Superyacht Marina in Rozelle Bay for a cruise around the harbour.

As Calliope transited the Glebe Island Bridge, it was off course and veered towards the bridge structure. To minimise any damage to the vessel, the crew attempted to walk a fender between the yacht’s hull and any possible points of contact. During this process, a crew member, leaning over the side of the yacht positioning the fender, was caught between the yacht and one of the bridge mounted fenders. The crew member was pulled over the yacht’s side and into the water.

The crew member was retrieved from the water shortly afterwards but died as a result of the injuries he had sustained.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that a passage plan for the voyage had not been completed and, therefore, the risks associated with the voyage were not appropriately assessed or communicated to the crew. It was also determined that the yacht’s master could not reference any navigational aids from his conning position in front of the navigational bridge. Hence, he was not in a position to properly monitor the yacht’s progress.

The ATSB also concluded that while Calliope was in voluntary compliance with elements of the Large Commercial Yacht Code (a United Kingdom instrument which had been adopted by the Cayman Islands), the yacht did not have to comply with these requirements because it was deemed to be a pleasure yacht. Similarly, the yacht did not have to carry a pilot while operating in Sydney Harbour because it was considered to be a recreational craft.

What's been done as a result

Calliope’s management company has advised that the ship’s safety management system procedures have been updated to require the completion of a passage plan for all voyages. Procedures for transiting bridge openings will be also be issued. A specialist consultant will also be engaged to conduct on board audits of the safety management system.

The Cayman Islands Shipping Registry has advised that the effectiveness of the Large Commercial Yacht Code in meeting the fundamental requirements of a documented safety management system will be raised with the United Kingdom as the authors, publishers and custodians of the Code.

The harbour master for the Port of Sydney has highlighted the details of this accident as part of a review of the NSW Marine Safety Act.

Safety message

Flag States and port administrations should consider the risks associated with operating a vessel when determining regulatory compliance requirements, rather than making such determinations based on the vessel’s mode (commercial or private) of operation.

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Safety issues

MO-2013-003-SI-01 - MO-2013-003-SI-002 - MO-2013-003-SI-003 -  

Safety Management System

Calliope’s safety management system (SMS) did not provide the crew with adequate guidance regarding passage planning, training and familiarisation. Individual crew familiarisation records and risk assessment forms were not retained on board the yacht and there was no system of auditing or checking to ensure the adequacy of the SMS or the effectiveness of its implementation.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2013-003-SI-01
Who it affects:All persons charged with navigating a vessel at sea
Status:Adequately addressed


Large yacht regulatory requirements

The Cayman Islands requirements in relation to a yacht’s compliance with the Large Commercial Yacht Code and other relevant legislation are determined by the yacht’s mode of operation. As a result, a commercially operated yacht in excess of 24 m in length must comply with the requirements of the Code while a similar sized privately operated yacht that poses the same risks to safety of life at sea and the environment does not.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2013-003-SI-002
Who it affects:All persons charged with navigating a vessel at sea
Status:Not addressed


Sydney Harbour pilotage requirements

Calliope was not required to carry a pilot during Sydney Harbour voyages because the yacht was considered to be a recreational vessel, even though the risks it posed to the port were the same as those posed by similarly sized commercially operated vessels.

Safety issue details
Issue number:MO-2013-003-SI-003
Who it affects:All persons charged with navigating a vessel at sea
Status:Not addressed

General details
Date: 08 February 2013 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 1345 (UTC+11)  
Location   (show map):Sydney Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: New South Wales  
Release date: 12 May 2014  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: Fatal 
Vessel details
Departure point:Sydney, NSW
Destination:Broken Bay, NSW
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Last update 14 November 2018