Foundering of a small pleasure yacht with subsequent loss of life

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The incident

A small pleasure yacht with three persons on board sailed in the evening, intending an overnight passage to the next port. In the early hours of the morning the vessel foundered on rocks that were close to the vessel and inshore. Two lives were lost in this incident.


The inquiry found that:

  1. The steering magnetic compass was not operational and had not been for some time. Regulation 7 Annexure 2) (1) Safety item no. 222 of the Merchant Shipping National Small Vessel Regulations as amended, requires a ‘suitable steering magnetic compass’.
  2. Over reliance was placed on only one method of navigation, namely the electronic chart plotter. Verification and confirmation of position through cross reference of methods and paper chart plotting was not undertaken.
  3. The auto pilot and electronic chart plotter were not corrected.
  4. A proper hand-over between watches was not properly conducted.
  5. A proper look-out ‘by sight and hearing as well as by all available means’ as required by rule 5 of the international Collision Regulations was not maintained.

All of the above factors contributed to a deficiency in situational awareness.

Please note that this case study has been extracted from the South African Maritime Authority (SAMSA) Marine Notice 27 of 2016.