An investigation into the fatal accident onboard the Amicitia where its mast broke and killed three people has revealed wood rot as the cause. The Dutch Safety Branch report revealed that there was no maintenance plan for the mast in question. The mast certificate issued in 2012, which was valid until 2018, caused the captain to think that this safety critical part of the ship met all safety requirements.
”In order to guarantee the safety of passengers, the historic ships sector must professionalise. With the commercial growth of the past decades, a backlog has been built up in knowledge and expertise about the safe maintenance of these special ships,” said the report.
Insufficient safety checks
The Amicitia is one of 300 sailing ships in what is known as the ‘bruine vloot’, or brown fleet, which comprises of historic ships chartered for passengers. In the main, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) is responsible for verifying that these ships and their owners comply with legal requirements under its role as a supervisor. But the report said that “In practice, the ILT does not appear to execute this responsiblity.”
The body previously did inspections itself, but now has private approval bodies which conduct the fleet’s safety checks. The report added that these inspection bodies do not comply with the legal regulations and there is a lack of supervision from the Inspectorate. Worryingly, the Dutch Safety Board said that other parts of the vessel may not be adequately inspected, giving rise to multiple safety concerns.
The board has recommended that the Dutch Charter Vessel Association creates a professional standard in line with the commercial operation of the bruine vloot sector, develop a platform for knowledge sharing of historic ships maintenance and develop multi-year maintenance plans which cover safety critical components.
Meanwhile, it wants approval bodies to take responsibility for the correct application of the law. They should reinspect wooden masts which were checked two and a half years’ ago as quickly as possible and check all community inland navigation certificates of passenger sailing ships reflect this.
It wants the ILT to consult on the implementation of the secondary supervision and make the risk assessment of the bruine vloot explicit. It also wants structural coordination between the Dutch Accreditation Council and the ILT with special consultation on the allocation of roles.