‘Inadequate lookout’ led to collision between superyacht and tanker, report finds

Tropic Breeze sinking

Two crews not maintaining proper lookouts led to the collision between a yacht and a tank vessel near Nassau, Bahamas, a new report from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has concluded.

The collision resulted in the sinking of the tank vessel and nearly $7.9 million in damages.

The motor yacht Utopia IV and tank vessel Tropic Breeze were transiting the Northeast Providence Channel on 23 December 2021, when the two vessels​ collided. The Tropic Breeze’s engine room flooded, and the vessel eventually sank. The vessel’s seven crew members abandoned the ship and were rescued by a good samaritan vessel. Three of the 12 crew members on the Utopia IV were injured.

​The report finds that, before the collision, the captain of the Utopia IV was conning the vessel while the bosun navigated and kept a bridge log. On the Tropic Breeze, the master and an able seafarer were on watch on the bridge.

​​Utopia IV (left) and Tropic Breeze (right) before the casualty. (Sources: Rossinavi [left]; Capt. Chris Knowles [right])
​​​​Utopia IV (left) and Tropic Breeze (right) before the incident. Photos courtesy of Rossinavi [left]; Capt. Chris Knowles [right]

The captain of the Utopia IV left the bridge shortly before the collision to check on the seven yacht passengers. The bosun, who was not credentialed as a watch officer and was not allowed by regulations to conn the vessel alone, was left performing watchstanding duties by himself and logging navigational data.

At 11pm (ET), the bow of the Utopia IV, travelling at about 20 knots, struck the transom of the Tropic Breeze from directly astern.

None of the watchstanders on the Utopia IV or Tropic Breeze reported seeing the other vessel on radar. According to the report, it is likely none of the watchstanders had looked at the radar in the 12 minutes before the collision.

During the voyage, Tropic Breeze’s automatic identification system was inoperative due to a power issue. If the unit was working, the report finds, Utopia IV’s watchstander could have detected the Tropic Breeze before the collision and Tropic Breeze’s system would have been able to identify the yacht’s position as it approached from astern.

NTSB investigators concluded that if either vessel had kept a proper lookout, they likely would have detected each other and could have taken action to avoid the collision.

The NTSB determined the probable cause of the collision was the Utopia IV’s wheelhouse crew not maintaining a proper lookout and therefore not identifying the tank vessel they were overtaking. Contributing was the Tropic Breeze’s bridge team also not maintaining a proper lookout.

“A proper lookout by suitably trained crewmembers is required by the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 and is essential in determining the risk of collision,” the report says. “The effective use of all available resources by a bridge team, including visual scanning, radars, electronic charts, and an automatic identification system, increases collective situational awareness and contributes to a safe navigation watch.

“Operators and crews should ensure that vessel bridge teams are staffed with certificated/credentialed mariners who are familiar with all bridge navigation equipment and able to independently take immediate action.” ​

The full marine investigation report is available online.​ ​

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2 responses to “‘Inadequate lookout’ led to collision between superyacht and tanker, report finds”

  1. Gz says:

    WTH? It has nothing to do with navigation equipment! Don’t they have eyes? Apparently Crews today are a bunch of untrained, irresponsible people. Keep your eyes off the instruments and focus on the sea is that too difficult ?

  2. Peter says:

    All the electronic systems are very good but most important is a proper look out