[Watch] Watchkeeper Distracted by Social Media Results in Collision



At 00:26 on 6 August 2017, the 5.64m recreational motor cruiser James 2 and the 26.24m commercial fishing vessel Vertrouwen collided in Sussex Bay, 1.6 miles south-east of Shoreham harbour. James 2 was drifting with the wind and tide while the four men on board were rod fishing for mackerel; Vertrouwen had just left port and was on passage to Grimsby. Neither vessel was damaged by the impact but James 2 was swamped by Vertrouwen’s wash and sank. Three of the men on board the motor cruiser drowned; a fourth was rescued from the water 5 hours later by a passing fishing vessel.

Probable cause:

Vertrouwen and James 2 collided because Vertrouwen’s wheelhouse watchkeeper did not see the drifting motor cruiser and the sea anglers on board James 2 did not realise that they were in danger of being run down until it was too late.

Safety lessons:

  • an effective lookout was not being kept on either of the 2 vessels
  • none of the sea anglers on James 2 were wearing lifejackets
  • James 2 was not showing the correct navigation lights for a vessel of its size
  • the watchkeeper on Vertrouwen was distracted by social media on his phone and vessel administration on a laptop in the wheelhouse


  • James 2 was easily swamped by Vertrouwen’s wash due to its low freeboard aft, and did not have the required level of internal subdivision or built-in flotation to remain afloat in the flooded condition.
  • Neither vessel was maintaining a proper lookout by sight and hearing. Vertrouwen’s skipper was a lone watchkeeper and he allowed himself to become distracted by using his mobile phone and working on his laptop computer. The sea anglers were focused on enjoying a social evening fishing and did not keep a lookout.
  • There is a continuing need to educate leisure craft users of the dangers of consuming alcohol while operating afloat.
  • James 2 did not have all the navigation lights required to operate at sea at night and, as a result, it is likely that the motor cruiser was not visible from Vertrouwen’s wheelhouse.
  • James 2 presented a good radar echo on Shoreham Port’s radar system, and should have been identifiable on Vertrouwen’s radar screens.
  • The 6-mile range set on Vertrouwen’s radar screens made it more difficult for the skipper to detect the drifting James 2.
  • The brightness of Vertrouwen’s illuminated deck floodlights diminished the level of night vision from the vessel’s wheelhouse and made its navigation lights less distinguishable to other vessels. This, therefore, increased the likelihood of a collision.
  • James 2 and the four sea anglers were ill-prepared to make a short trip offshore at night:
  • James 2 did not have sufficient freeboard, any reserve buoyancy or a means of pumping out flood water.
  • James 2 was not carrying distress flares or a fog horn.
  • The sea anglers were not wearing PFDs.
  • None of the sea anglers had undertaken any formal maritime safety training for operating the boat offshore, nor for the operation of the marine VHF unit.
  • Had the four sea anglers been able to raise the alarm and been wearing lifejackets or buoyancy aids, their chances of survival would have been significantly improved.


Safety recommendations (2018/102 and 2018/103) have been made to the owners of Vertrouwen to include references within their safety management system to keeping a lookout and when to complete vessel departure reports.

Disclaimer: This video is intended for informational purpose only. This may not be construed as a news item or advice of any sort. Please consult the experts in that field for the authenticity of the presentations.

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Source: MAIB


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