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.