Despite decreasing marine casualties the Irish authorities remain cautious

Irish authorities remain cautious despite decreasing marine casualties
Irish authorities remain cautious despite decreasing marine casualties

Marine casualties and fatalities in Irish waters have reduced in the past ten years, but investigators warn this could change if voluntary codes of conduct are ignored. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) reports that fatalities have been on a downward trend to zero in 2021 from a high of 13 in 2012. However, this may not remain the case as the number of serious incidents involving kayakers and canoeists continues to rise.

In 2020 the MCIB urged water sports clubs to ensure that all codes of practice, guidelines and recommendations were followed. 

“It is disappointing to note that in 2021 the MCIB continued to be advised of situations where little or no regard was paid to governing body safety guidelines,” said Claire Callanan, chair of MCIB.

“We have observed a continuing increase in the number of very serious incidents involving kayakers/canoeists some of which could very easily have led to fatalities.

“Regulation may well be required, especially in the commercial sector, if voluntary standards set by accredited bodies are not adhered to,” she added.

During 2021 the MCIB investigated four incidents involving recreational craft, none of which resulted in loss of life fortunately.

One person was seriously injured when a rowing boat with five youngsters on board overturned on Abbey River, a tributary of the River Shannon. Four of the children, all aged 12 to 13, were rescued unhurt, with the fifth pulled from the water by emergency services after her hair became entangled under the boat. The incident was caused by a number of factors including a lack of risk assessment, crew inexperience, lack of safety equipment on board the accompanying safety boat and complacency on the part of the Athlunkard Boat Club towards safety.

A kayaker declined hospital treatment after swallowing large amounts of seawater when she capsized repeatedly whilst on a commercial sea kayaking tour to Dalkey Island, Co. Dublin. Two other kayakers were also separated from the larger group of 12 participants and three instructors; these too capsized and were rescued by local fishers. The MCIB concluded that insufficient attention had been paid to the conditions, which were deemed not suitable for the tour.

The yacht Jelly Baby was a write-off after drifting into rocks when a crew member and sail went overboard. It had been participating in a yacht race in Cork Harbour.

A serious fire broke out on board the yacht Black Magic as it sailed from Crosshaven, Co. Cork to Kinsale Harbour. The uninjured, solo skipper was rescued by a passing fishing vessel with Black Magic reported as having sunk in Ringabella Bay, Co. Cork.

Download the MCIB report: MCIB Annual Report 2021

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