The capsized Miroshga charter being towed to Cape Town harbour by Smit Amandla. File photo: Brenton Geach
The capsized Miroshga charter being towed to Cape Town harbour by Smit Amandla. File photo: Brenton Geach

The blunders that sank the Miroshga

By Daneel Knoetze Time of article published Oct 24, 2012

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Cape Town - The skipper of the sightseeing boat Miroshga which capsized earlier this month near Hout Bay in an incident in which two passengers drowned, was not qualified to command a small passenger boat, a preliminary report says.

This, coupled with an underqualified crew, bad decision-making, infrastructural shortcomings, technical failures and weather conditions all contributed to the disaster, according to the report released on Wednesday.

Of major concern is the revelation that a number of modifications to the vessel’s original configuration resulted in a number of technical shortcomings.

These were cited as the main catalysts in precipitating the events which rendered the vessel unsafe, in spite of it having a permit to take tourists on dolphin and whaling watching excursions in 2011.

Of the eight “causes” listed in the conclusion of the report, seven were the direct result of negligence or inexperience, and thus avoidable.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) is still completing its investigation, but its initial report revealed the main causes of the incident.

Welsh tourist Peter Hyett and Hangberg resident and crew member John Roberts died in the incident.

Dave Colly, regional manager for Samsa in the Western Cape, said: “The final report will only be complete in the next month or so. It will be sent to the investigating officer of the case and to the Samsa head office.”

Causes for the accident listed by the initial report include:

* The skipper’s competency certificate was not endorsed to allow him to command a small passenger ship. The endorsement is the only assurance that a skipper holds specific training in life raft use, radio procedures, first aid and fire fighting.

* The vessel was fitted with a 50-man life raft. This raft drifted away without inflating after passengers cut the canister retaining straps. A member of the crew dived in and attempted to retrieve the raft, but the wind swept the crew member and the raft away from the vessel.

* The flood points of the vessel were too low, allowing substantial amounts of water to enter the non-watertight aft compartment while at sea. The problem was known to the owners and crew, who managed the water ingress by using bilge pumps to remove water during voyages. The problem was not reported to Samsa.

* Bilge pumps were not correctly wired.

* Alarms that were intended to alert crew to bilge pump failures were disconnected. The skipper and crew were thus not aware of the of the flooded aft compartments.

* When inboard engines were replaced by outboard engines (in a 2010 modification), the watertight subdivisions arrangements in the hull were compromised, allowing sea water to come into the compartment. This resulted in the cross-flooding of adjacent compartments, including the battery compartment for the engine. Also, the the starboard engine out-mount was not watertight and needed to be drained daily.

* An electrical failure and flooding resulted in the vessel’s two engines cutting out.

* With propulsion lost, the vessel drifted closer to inshore shallow waters. The skipper did not appreciate the danger of this, and when the danger was identified there was a delay in deploying the anchor. Steep breaking waves in this shallow water resulted in the boat being capsized.

Cape Argus

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