DOC told to update skippers' guidelines

23:49, Dec 27 2012

The Department of Conservation needs to update the national guidelines for its skippers after one of its boats crashed into a yacht in the Marlborough Sounds, a Maritime New Zealand report says.

In the investigation DOC was found to lack structured training and supervision for its skippers who hold commercial maritime licences.

The department failed to follow its own safe ship management system for ongoing assessment of skippers, the report said.

Conservation Department catamaran Waitohi collided with the recreational Herreshoff yacht Atua in October last year near Bull Head in Queen Charlotte Sound.

The two boats were travelling in opposite directions when Waitohi, an 8.5-metre boat travelling about 20 knots, suddenly veered left and collided with Atua at a right angle.

Atua was returning to Waikawa Bay from Resolution Bay, travelling about four knots.


The skipper of Picton-based Waitohi suffered a concussion and was hospitalised overnight. Atua's skipper was not hurt but his yacht was irreparable.

Maritime New Zealand's report said the boats were passing safely moments before the crash.

"The hull of Waitohi may have broached on a wave, causing a sudden lurch to port," the report said. "This may have caused the skipper to be knocked over, hitting his head on the chart-plotter and buckling the steering wheel."

There was insufficient evidence to form a definite conclusion about the cause of the accident, the report said.

The Department of Conservation skipper did not remember the events leading up to and including the impact.

He had held his commercial launchmaster licence since 1987 but had not received formal, documented assessment of his competency since then.

However, it was accepted by Maritime New Zealand that there was some training in place for skippers, although neither formalised nor well documented.

Atua's skipper also held a commercial launchmaster licence.

Maritime New Zealand recommended that DOC undertake regular monitoring and documentation of skippers operating boats over 6 metres.

It also recommended single-man operational areas be considered for risk analysis and lanyard use and that the department carry out routine internal auditing of its safe ship management systems.

The Marlborough Express