MAIB calls for industry forum to manage PWC (jet ski) use

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its report into the collision between the rigid inflatable boat Rib Tickler and a Personal WaterCraft (Aug2020), an accident which caused the loss of one life. And, following on from this, Andrew Moll, MAIB’s chief inspector of marine accidents, has called for the formal creation on a cross-industry forum.

“Following this investigation,” says Moll, “I have recommended to the Royal Yachting Association and Personal WaterCraft Partnership that a cross industry forum be formally created to provide a more consistent approach to the management of personal watercraft around the UK.

“As the use of leisure craft in the UK becomes ever more popular, this tragic accident serves as a powerful reminder that uncoordinated, high-speed manoeuvres near other craft are unsafe.

“Personal WaterCraft, often referred to as jet skis, provide a unique and fun way to enjoy the water, but they are high performance machines, not toys. The completion of an appropriate training course will better equip the rider with skills and knowledge necessary for the safe use of a personal watercraft.

“Although there are many harbour and local authorities that manage their waters to provide safe areas for all water users, there is an inconsistency of management around the UK coast, which can lead to conflicted interests and confusion.”

MAIB’s report states that Rib Tickler and a Personal WaterCraft (PWC) collided at high speed in the Menai Strait, Wales. A passenger, seated on Rib Tickler‘s aft bench seat, was struck by the PWC and fatally injured. The PWC had been jumping across Rib Tickler’s wake when the rigid inflatable boat altered course across the PWC’s path. The two craft were operating too closely to each other at high speed and neither Rib Tickler’s driver nor the PWC rider understood the other’s intentions.

MAIB’s report highlighted several safety issues which include both craft operating in close proximity to each other, while carrying out uncoordinated high-speed manoeuvres.

MAIB says the knowledge and skill levels of the persons in control or overseeing the two craft were not appropriate to the manoeuvres being undertaken. Neither of them had carried out an appropriate training course.

Although Isle of Anglesey County Council had a marine safety management system there was insufficient local governance of the marine environment, with a lack of resources, risk assessment for leisure users, or powers to manage its waterspace.

The inconsistent approach to personal watercraft management around the UK coast has a detrimental impact on the efforts being made to reduce irresponsible use.

The report describes the incident: The accident happened because the personal watercraft was too close to Rib Tickler when jumping its wake, which left insufficient time to react when the rigid inflatable boat’s driver altered course across its path. Rib Tickler’s driver had commenced his turn without sufficiently checking astern for other craft. The investigation identified that neither Rib Tickler’s driver, its owner, nor the personal watercraft rider had attended an appropriate training course and the knowledge and skill levels of the persons in control or overseeing the two craft were not appropriate for the manoeuvres being undertaken. The investigation concluded that the rigid inflatable boat’s driver did not have full awareness of other water users before commencing his turn and the personal watercraft rider did not have sufficient knowledge or experience to appreciate the hazards involved in wake jumping.

Following this accident, Isle of Anglesey County Council has engaged a maritime specialist to conduct a review into its governance of the Menai Strait, and the Royal Yachting Association has updated its course content and guidance documents.

All images courtesy of MAIB

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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