Following the investigation of a serious boating accident in Scotland in 2016, the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has issued new recommendations for charter boat tours and recreational boating. The accident occurred when two rigid inflatable boats collided and crushed a 45-year-old female passenger. The woman suffered broken bones and a punctured lung. The MAIB investigated the accident and issued recommendations regarding safety and guidelines aboard these recreational and tourist boats.
The RIB Accident
The accident that triggered the new recommendations for charter and recreational boating occurred with two rigid inflatable boats, or RIBs. The two vessels were the Osprey and Osprey II and they were loaded with tourists headed from the Anstruther Harbor to the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth in Scotland. The MAIB investigation of the incident found that the operators of each boat increased speed just before the accident, and as they realized they were headed for a collision, attempted to slow down. It was too late, though, and the two boats collided.
The woman who was injured was riding in the Osprey II with her husband and two children. There were a total of eleven passengers on board the vessel that normally seats eight. The Osprey was carrying 12 passengers at the time of the accident. The woman, because of the increased number of passengers, was sitting on an inflatable tube instead of in designated seating inside the boat.
She was crushed between the boats, and although she was taken to the hospital immediately, she suffered serious and permanent injuries. She sustained breaks to her collar bones and five ribs, she had serious bruising and a punctured lung. She was put into a medically-induced coma, and as the result of her injuries suffered permanent damage in her eyes, which now limits her vision.
RIB Safety Regulations and New Recommendations
The operators of the two boats involved in the crash sold extra seats to passengers even though there was only real seating for eight. The woman and others who had the extra seats were sitting on inflatable tubes and were put at serious risks for injuries and for falling overboard. The operators were not breaking any laws or safety regulations by allowing passengers to sit in those vulnerable positions.
Following the investigation, the MAIB issued a report that recommended safety regulations for recreational vessels be updated to include a maximum number of passengers for RIBs. The recommendation is that capacity be legally restricted to the number of available and suitable seats. Since the incident the tour operators that own the Osprey vessels have voluntarily designated new rules limiting passengers.
The MAIB recommended that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency make these kinds of regulations official. The agency also recommended that industry associations make their own rules and improve the guidance they offer for operators of RIBs and similar watercraft. Crew members on these types of vessels and the passengers themselves can also take steps to be safer on the water.
Until the regulations become official, if they do, it is important that everyone consider safety and use vessels as they were intended to be used, with adequate safety gear and guidelines in mind. RIBs have been more popular in the UK than in the U.S., but more people are using them now, including for recreational and charter tourism. It is important that safety guidelines be followed to keep both crew and passengers safe.