Accident prevention can be aided by proper maintenance is the subject of a USCG safety alert

Image courtesy USCG
Image courtesy USCG

USCG has released a Safety Alert using the example of a commercial airboat incident which lost steering and hit a tree, resulting in a few serious injuries. The Safety Alert aims to remind operators and marine surveyors of the importance of recognising risks and ensuring proper maintenance and repairs.

Throughout maritime history, inadequate or improper maintenance and repairs, combined with the failure to recognize potential risks as a result of those maintenance and repair efforts, have caused numerous marine casualties involving substantial injuries, fatalities, environmental damage and economic costs to the involved parties.

The causal factors behind the decisions to perform inadequate or improper maintenance and repairs are, often, related to economic factors which reduce the available options to those involved, causing them to make a poor decision.

In the above example with the airboat, a deformed connection was the cause. Namely, the end of the body of the steering cable is secured to the vessel and locked in place by two nuts. See image A.

Attached near this fitting is a sleeve which covers the final end of the enclosed cable. The end of the sleeve is inserted into the end of the main cable body which is then crimped inward.

A rubber foot covers this joint, in order to prevent dirt and debris from entering into the cable body and interfering with the enclosed cable’s movement. The crimped connection allows for some angular movement at the end of the cable.

Over time, the crimped connection can become deformed due to the stresses occurring at the joint. In the above mentioned case, the parts separated and the end of the cable lost its linear rigidity, putting slack into the control cable and causing a loss of control of the steering foils.

As a result of this information and other similar instances the USCG recommends operators, with the maintenance of these and all vessel types, the following:

– To develop an operational paradigm where maintenance and repair items are evaluated carefully, recognizing the potentials risks associated with their operation should the repair or maintenance item not be properly performed or achieved in a timely manner.

– For airboat operators specifically: Operators of airboats that use flexible type steering control cables are reminded of the need to thoroughly inspect cables before use, including areas under the dust boots. Due to the forces encountered on airboat applications, owners are also encouraged to ensure these cables are properly maintained and to immediately replace a worn cable. Operators are discouraged from attempting to repair a factory crimp.

Read the USCG Safety Alert in full: USCG Marine Safety Alert on Inspections an Compliance Directorate

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