Cornwall

Scilly tourist boat rescue prompts review

Passengers wearing lifejackets Image copyright MAIB Publications
Image caption Sightseers had to be rescued when the 'Surprise' ran aground

An investigation into the grounding of a sightseeing boat has recommended a review of the way boatman's licences are issued.

Tourists had to be rescued when the 'Surprise' hit a rock off the Isles of Scilly in May 2016, the report said.

The skipper had not adequately assessed the area's safety, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) stated.

It also found the Council of the Isles of Scilly "did not have the marine expertise" needed to issue licences.

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Image copyright MAIB Publications
Image caption A "loud scraping noise was heard" when the submerged rock penetrated the hull
Image caption Thousands of tourists visit the Isles of Scilly each year

The 'Surprise' was showing holidaymakers seals and birds in "glassy calm" waters when it hit the rock.

According to the report, a "loud scraping noise was heard" when the submerged rock penetrated the hull and the vessel "shuddered to a halt" before it began taking on water.

Everyone on-board was safely evacuated to nearby boats within 15 minutes before being transferred to the St Mary's RNLI lifeboat and then back to shore.

Image copyright MAIB Publications
Image caption All of the passengers were rescued within 15 minutes
Image copyright MAIB Publications

The skipper was found to have carried out all the correct actions to get help.

But the council has been asked to review its procedures "for the examination and issue" of boatman's licences.

The MAIB said the council's boating sub-committee, which was responsible for dealing with licences, "did not have underpinning legislation, maritime experience or a suitably qualified advisor to maintain an effective overview of the system".

Practical local knowledge examinations at sea were carried out without any written guidance for the appointed examiner.

The MAIB also found there was no syllabus for the tests, and no written or oral examinations.

The report stated: "The review should consider the applicability of the licensing scheme and assurance of examination standards."

It also recommended the St Mary's Boatmen's Association introduces "guidance to members on passage planning and conduct of navigation".

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