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Marine Casualty Investigation Board Tells Clubs to Audit Their Safety Systems

30th December 2021

The annual report of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) for last year came a bit late this year to make as much impact as it could. It arrived in my email at the start of the month, a time when sailing and many watersports are not particularly active as the season has wound down and boats are laid up.

The Board has had a bit of a torrid time over the European Court decision on the appointment of new members, and legislation in this regard was still passing through the Dáil when the report was published. Also still in train was the review ordered by Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, to assess current organisational structures for marine casualty investigation in Ireland.

However, these should not take from the warnings of Board Chairperson Claire Callanan about the dangers in watersports. She includes sailing in her list, with rowing, canoeing and kayaking.

"The occurrence of so many incidents involving sailing, rowing, canoeing and kayaking in the last few years is of particular safety concern," she wrote in her introductory note to the report. "The MCIB is strongly encouraging all organisations, "especially clubs and commercial entities associated with water sports and water recreational activities, to audit their safety systems and to have regard to the Code of Practice and all guidelines or recommendations issued by any governing sports bodies. Safety in this sector is a particular concern. It highlights the dangers associated with activities that people participate in at many levels, including recreational and sporting. "It is imperative that any individual or group engaged in this activity realise the importance of adequate route planning and has an understanding of the watercourse," she wrote.

"incidents involving sailing, rowing, canoeing & kayaking is of particular safety concern"

This is also a trend reported by marine casualty investigation organisations around Europe. That is advice that clubs will have to take aboard. There is a factor to be considered, and that is the increased recreational activity on the water arising from stay-at-home holidays due to the Covid pandemic.

Clubs and sailing schools

That also highlights the importance of club membership and training. Clubs and sailing schools make safety on the water a vital issue for members. Those not members of clubs don't have to adhere to and may not be aware of safety requirements.

Reclassifying jet skis

One other safety aspect which needs attention is whether Ireland should follow the UK decision to take action to control jet skis, where there does not seem to be strong organisational usage control. The UK's Department of Transport has announced that it intends to "reclassify jet skis, speed boats and other recreational and personal watercraft to make users subject to the same laws and safety obligations as applied to those who operate ships. This would clamp down on dangerous, reckless driving of jet skis to protect the public and coastal areas," it says.

The UK Royal Yachting Association, while supporting the change, says the definition of watercraft is too broad and could affect other craft not causing problems. "There are aspects which are not appropriate for all watercraft. We have suggested changes," the RYA says.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for Afloat.ie. He presents the monthly programme Maritime Ireland on Podcast services and Irish radio stations.

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