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Burning Bridges
Posted: Monday, June 5, 2017 6:14 PM
Joined: 19/08/2014
Posts: 67

The crew of S/Y Fast Flow were on well-deserved leave following a long charter season in the Mediterranean. The chef and chief stewardess, a husband and wife team, had recently bought an apartment nearby and offered to look after the yacht. The captain left a daily checklist for the yacht’s systems, stressing one instruction that must be adhered to: “Under no circumstances should the yacht be left unattended overnight.”

Every morning, the team would go through the items on the checklist; making sure valves were exercised, generators run, and water tanks topped up. It made for an easy day’s work; however, after two weeks the tasks became tedious. Despite having the yacht to themselves, marina life had quickly become quite boring, and it seemed a shame not to be living ashore in their apartment. Leaving some lights on in the cabin to ensure the yacht looked occupied, the chef and chief stewardess went ashore for a night away.
Sadly, unmanned vessels are a source of too many insurance claims. “Unfortunately, Pantaenius witnesses claims in connection with poorly manned or unmanned superyachts quite frequently,” says Jens Ploch of Pantaenius Insurance. “Intermediate size yachts around thirty meters are often insufficiently manned when claims at the mooring occur. In many cases, such claims are caused by defects of the electrical installations resulting in fires, or even the sinking of the vessel.”

In the early hours the following morning, the team was wakened by a call from the captain on holiday on the other side of the Atlantic. “Are you both alright?” They were confused, unaware that the marina had called the captain. The yacht was downwind of a furious blaze from another unattended yacht only three berths away. Several yachts, including Fast Flow, were now on fire. With all the hatches locked and no way of starting the engine, it had proved impossible for marina staff to move her out of the way in time; she was abandoned to the flames.
“You can’t stop another yacht in the same marina from catching fire, but responsibility for your own vessel doesn’t cease when it’s alongside,” explains Harry Benson, a freelance captain with extensive guardianship experience. “It’s fundamental that those left in charge understand the practical side of looking after the vessel, but perhaps even more importantly, the level of responsibility being placed in their hands. Ideally, qualified deck crew should be responsible for the vessel in rotation, rather than delegating to those usually not involved with the yacht’s systems. If you are qualified master, you are under no illusions about the legal side of who is responsible.”

The source of the fire was traced to a refrigeration pump installed with too little ventilation. “If you must leave a yacht in a marina without anyone on board, it should be left ‘dead,’” says Benson. “The shore power should be connected to keep the batteries topped up and bilge pumps working but anything else that’s electrical should be left off; ideally, isolated at the electrical panel. Every item that’s left on increases the chances of an electrical fire.”
Ploch shares the same opinion. “One problem is that electrical equipment is often installed without sufficient space, and the ventilation is not adequate or properly designed,” he says. “This is an obvious problem in the engine room. Fuel cans for tenders and toys should always be stored in ventilated rooms as the volatile fuel can create fumes that ignite easily. Owners who want to cut down on costs should never consider saving money at the expense of their own safety. Depending on the size of the ship, the pantry [and] galley provide a potential source for fire as well. Gas stoves, for example, need to be checked on a regular basis to prevent faults occurring. One of the biggest problems we have identified is that alarm systems, such as smoke detectors, are sometimes very basic and work pretty slowly. This can significantly reduce the crew’s time to react, even if they are on board. Of course, having enough qualified crew on board is a major requirement in matters of fire prevention. There are often dozens of yachts lying tightly together in marinas without enough or any crew on board. If one yacht catches fire, it is very likely that two or three other vessels are damaged as well, as we have just seen again recently in Port Forum, [Barcelona].”
The captain’s holiday was cut short and within a week, the yacht’s owner was seeking legal redress. The marina was quickly absolved of responsibility, citing the berthing agreement signed by the captain when the yacht had arrived, and, most damningly, CCTV footage of the crew leaving the main gate.

Ploch stresses that not meeting the insurance requirements can have very serious consequences if the worst does happen. “Ultimately, owner and captain are responsible for the vessel, and this responsibility can lead to serious implications regarding the yacht’s insurance cover. Numerous factors could lead to unexpected surprises when filing a claim,” he says. “Specifics will always depend on various factors, [such as] flag state requirements, policy wording, warranties with regards to crew or maintenance within the policy, duty of disclosure, applicable law, and more. A claim could be rejected if the owner fails to comply with his legal obligations or obligations held within his insurance policy — like we have witnessed in the M/Y Galatea case. It is therefore key to know and understand the warranties your insurance cover is subject to, and any owner is well advised to seek professional advice from a yacht insurance specialist.”

Having failed to meet the conditions of the yacht’s insurance policy, the crew in their entirety were dismissed by the owner, finding their CVs headed with a yacht’s name that had quickly become famous for all the wrong reasons.
Posted: Tuesday, June 6, 2017 6:11 PM


Thank you

Too many times unqualified people are left even on watch, without the bullheaded captain or engineer to let the chef know how to turn something off, or do this or do that pertaining to safety.  Been in places where they do not supply a cell phone for the local country and then cappie goes off to find whores and booze and leaves a dumbfounded couple crew on board to do what?  Call who?  Schtupid is as Schtupid does.  Captain is always the problem and always responsible....ALWAYS

Posted: Tuesday, June 6, 2017 8:08 PM
Joined: 29/12/2015
Posts: 14

Sounds more like warning on selecting insurance companies for your vessel and reading the fine print before signing. More so than a vessel left unattended by crew as titled.

That and what the heck kind of floating chunk of junk did the owner(s) get suckered into blowing money on vessel wise. Vessel design flaws being mentioned that have nothing to do with Captain or crew but rather the ship builders responsibility. And a survey should have picked up on most flaws.

If an owner wants his vessel lite up like Christmas tree year round, checked on once a week to make sure everything is running right and no bulbs burnt out for what they're spending on these vessels they should be able to do so without fear of it bursting into flames when no one's looking or didn't make the right face when locking up before leaving.

Crew on watch contact info is posted with the Dock master and would have been in this situation given crew were on leave including the Captain.

To be honest, this writing sounds like it came straight out of a insurance company's scare tactic manual. Same as used when prospecting home owners for fire/flood and health insurance.

Crew watches or Vessel Fires might be a decent topic, but this fictitious writing is unbecoming and unrealistic in so many ways it makes it just plain wrong.


Gabriel Poirier
Posted: Monday, June 12, 2017 4:03 PM
Joined: 21/05/2008
Posts: 31

You need to be very "brave" to hide as "Anonymous" and blame the Captain. It seams that you are to lazy to do your part of  the job and are not welling to take your responsibilities.

As a Captain and crew for over 12 years, I never left my safety to anybody else. If I realize that there is a potential problem, I, as  a responsible and competant crew, do everything to fix it before the situation deteriorate.

Now, it is not only the responsibility of the Captain to take care of the yacht. If a crew realize that there is something wrong, he/she is responsible to fix it or at least to report it.

The design of the yacht pose problems many times. As a crew, you need to be aware of that and do your best to improve the safety issues link to the design. it is also the responsibility of the  crew, all the crew,  to know what to do, who to call.....for all types of situation.

Be more responsible safe lives. 


Manfred matthies
Posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2017 7:25 AM
Joined: 14/07/2016
Posts: 6

 Average 5 out of 5