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Maritime NZ is making changes to safety requirements for recreational vessels leaving New Zealand ports for overseas, and for other recreational vessels in New Zealand waters.

The changes come from recommendations in a detailed, 60-page report into a fatal accident in which two crew members of the yacht Platino died on 13 June 2016.

Within seconds the yacht had gone from sailing comfortably to being significantly damaged and effectively out of control. The boom was swinging uncontrollably across the yacht and hardware connected to it was described by the crew as acting like a wrecking ball.

Almost immediately one crew member was fatally injured when he was hit by hardware connected to the out of control boom, and another was lost overboard, most likely thrown by the boom.

The three crew who survived the accident were rescued by a container ship on 14 June 2016.

Maritime NZ Director, Keith Manch, said work is already underway with Yachting NZ to change Yachting NZ’s Safety Regulations of Sailing that are used for safety inspections of all recreational vessels – sailing or powered – bound for overseas.

Maritime NZ requires all such vessels to be certified by qualified Yachting NZ inspectors before than can leave New Zealand. The vessels must get what is known as a Category 1 safety certificate.

“We will also be working with Yachting NZ and other boating organisations about a range of technical requirements for vessels’ equipment, and particularly about training for skippers and crew, and vessels operating manuals,” Mr Manch said. “While the changes relate to a range of equipment and procedures, at their heart is the preparedness and training of the skipper and crew. “The skipper and crew must be familiar with the equipment on board, know how to use it correctly, and know how to respond in an emergency.”

In all the circumstances, Maritime NZ considered the appropriate approach in this case was to use the information gathered through the investigation to improve safety outcomes, without any accompanying enforcement action.

Maritime NZ has sent the report to the Coroner to help inform an inquest.

Recommendations
Maritime NZ has made 28 recommendations under seven headings:
·         certification of pleasure craft departing on international ocean voyages
·         autopilot failure
·         preventer failure (a preventer is a device used on a sailing vessel to help prevent uncontrolled swinging of a boom)
·         mainsheet traveler failure (a mainsheet traveler is used to help keep the boom in the right position)
·         person overboard
·         emergency communication
·         command and control.

Background and summary of accident
Platino is a 19.78 metre-long sailing yacht built in 1997-98 and extensively refitted in 2015.

It was certified to Category 1 standard by Yachting NZ on 11 May 2016, and sailed from Auckland bound for Fiji on 11 June 2016 with five crew on board.

The accident occurred on the morning of 13 June 2016, 305 nautical miles (565 km) north-north-east of Cape Reinga in high wind to gale conditions and a confused sea.

Platino turned unexpectedly and dramatically to starboard. The turn was most likely caused by a combination of weather and sea conditions, and a malfunction of the autopilot.

The sudden, unintentional turn set off a trail of damage that left the boom swinging uncontrollably backwards and forwards across the yacht, one crew member fatally injured and another lost overboard, and serious damage that eventually led to the total failure and loss of the mast, boom and rigging.

All three surviving crew saw the crewmember in the water but were unable to provide assistance or aid his rescue. The crew’s options were severely limited by the chaotic and dangerous situation on deck, and a lack of control over the yacht.

The investigation concluded that many factors came together to cause the accident and the severity of its outcomes. One factor was that the crew, all of whom were experienced sailors, had not trained together for emergencies on board this yacht, and was not sufficiently familiar with its particular equipment.

Source: Maritime New Zealand