Why the ship that ran down this yacht might not have noticed a thing


I’ve had quite a few comments about the yacht that was run down by a ship , most along the lines of: why didn’t they keep a proper lookout?

From the ship crew’s point of view, there were two interesting responses. Claus Reissig emailed: ‘I showed this story to a friend, who is working as a commercial captain. He said they sometimes notice impacts, even feeling that the ship is slowing down some 10th of a knot, but they calculate with sleeping whales. If these do not disappear by themselves, they put the engine in reverse to remove it from the bulb. No big deal he said…’

Andrew Craig-Bennett commented: ‘If we guess at a very “everyday” size of ship, the size known in the business as a “handysize” – 600 feet, or 182 metres, long and 32.2 metres in beam (the maximumum beam for the existing locks in the Panama Canal) with a draft of say 10.8 metres laden, the ship would have a light displacement of 6,000 tons or so, to which we must add, as a minimum, say 10,000 tons of water ballast and 1,000 tons of fuel and stores.

‘If the ship were laden, we must make that perhaps 40,000 tons of cargo, plus the fuel and stores and the light displacement. In this case, we can tell that the ship was laden, by the position of the damage on the yacht – the bulbous bow was well submerged, as you can see from the damage.

‘So, yacht : ship = 10 : 45,000 or 1: 4,500.

‘The ship might well not notice a thing.

‘This assumes a bulk carrier or tanker of modest size, making about 14 knots. A big containership will be making 25 knots or so, and will have double the displacement.

‘As to seeing the boat on radar, I think we must get used to the idea that yachts get lost in clutter very quickly, unless they have an active transponder. Certainly the well known QinetiQ annex to the MAIB report into the loss of the Ouzo supports this.

‘Manning levels on ships have been for many years such that reliance is mainly placed on the radar as a means of detecting vessels with an “interesting” CPA.

I have said for years – and I am not alone in this – that yachts must expect ships to alter course in response to other ships that the ship sees on radar but that the yacht’s crew cannot see from the cockpit. I don’t know if this applied here, but it is certainly unwise to take your eyes off a nearby ship.’