Importance of proper lookout and observation must be emphasized in order to prevent marine accidents

Published 17.4.2020

The Safety Investigation Authority has completed its investigation of the collision of two recreational craft in the Archipelago Sea on 3 August 2019.

On 3 August 2019, two recreational craft collided in the Archipelago Sea, resulting in the death of two persons.

The collision occurred at the intersection of fairways to the north of the Seili Island. The crews of neither boat noticed the danger of collision until it was too late: despite the last-second evasion attempts by the larger boat’s master, the larger boat collided with the port side of the smaller boat.

The masters of both boats had long experience in boating.

Although there were five other rescue operations ongoing in the Archipelago Sea at the same time as the investigated accident, the resources were sufficient to carry out all rescue operations. Technical deficiencies were detected in the information flow from the Emergency Rescue Centre to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.

The importance of keeping a proper lookout was emphasized during the investigation. Traffic in the area was light and the visibility was good. The colorization of the boats blended with the background. The constant bearing and decreasing range create a dangerous situation in which mistakes are also made by experienced boaters without any particular carelessness or incaution. The maritime regulations, instructions and safety work emphasize the importance of keeping a proper lookout and identifying collision risk well in advance.

As a result of the investigation, the Safety Investigation Authority issues three recommendations for improving the safety of boating:

The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, together with boating organizations, bring up the problem of a constant bearing and decreasing range and practical means for estimating the risk of collision as part of the training and guidance provided to boaters.

Several accidents have occurred in the waterways where recreational craft have collided with each other either due to insufficient lookout or observational error. A constant bearing and a decreasing range form a situation in which an observational error is very easy to make. The problem is well-known, but the practical means for resolving it have been too few and far between, states professor Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Executive Director of the Safety Investigation Authority.

Secondly, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency pay attention to teaching and training methods concerning proper lookout and the related practical means when auditing the training programs for recreational boating.

The maritime rules and regulations emphasize the master’s responsibility to ensure the safe passage of the vessel, which also includes keeping appropriate lookout in order to detect a possible collision risk early enough, for example. The lookout must be active all around the horizont, emphasizes Investigator-in-Charge Risto Haimila.

Thirdly, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Ministry of the Interior ensure that the transfer of a maritime search and rescue mission received by an Emergency Response Centre to a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre takes place without delay or interruption.

Although resources were sufficient for carrying out all the rescue operations in the Archipelago Sea on 3 August 2019, there are technical deficiencies in the compatibility of the emergency call reception systems of the Emergency Response Centre Administration and the Finnish Border Guard that must be corrected, emphasizes Investigator-in-charge Haimila.

Link to summary

Further information:

Mr. Risto Haimila, Investigator-in-charge tel. +358 2951 50730

Dr. Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Executive Director, Professor tel. +358 2951 50701