The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has issued new boat safety advice following an investigation into a crash between two RIBS in the Firth of Forth

A recommendation to limit the number of passengers carried by RIBS has been made by the MAIB following an accident in the Firth of Forth in Scotland in July 2016.

The crash between RIBS Osprey and Osprey II on 19 July left a 45-year-old woman with a punctured lung and permanent damage to her sight.

The accident happened during an organised trip to see the Isle of May seabird haven.

The MAIB investigation found that the woman had been seated on the inflatable tube of Osprey II at the time of the accident.

Passenger spaces on Osprey II were normally limited to the eight spaces available on its four bench seats, but in good weather two additional spaces were sold, with the extra passengers sitting in designated positions on its inflatable tubes.

Both Osprey and Osprey II, which are owned by Isle of May Boat Trips Ltd, had departed from Anstruther Harbour and were heading to the nature reserve – Isle of May.

Osprey had 12 passengers on board – 11 adults and one child.

While proceeding in parallel at a speed of around 6 knots, the skipper of each RIB increased speed and commenced a power turn away from each other with the intention of passing each other in the course of completing a round turn.

Two orange RIBS with passengers on board

Osprey and Osprey II. Credit: MAIB

In its report, the MAIB states that as the RIBs turned towards each other, it became apparent to both skippers that the RIBs were in danger of colliding.

“Although they both acted quickly to reduce the speed of their respective vessels and so lessen the impact, they were unable to prevent the collision,” it found.

“The manoeuvre had previously been carried out successfully on several occasions but it had not been formally risk assessed and no thought had been given to what to do if a collision situation developed,” it added.

Osprey’s bow hit Osprey II, pinning the woman to the RIB’s helm console. The starboard aft section of Osprey II’s inflatable tube was punctured and rapidly deflated.

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The woman, who was on the RIB with her husband and two children aged 8 and 12, was taken to hospital where she was put into an induced coma.

She suffered two broken collar bones, five broken ribs, a punctured lung, and lacerations and bruising to her back and torso as a result of the crash.

The internal injuries she sustained in the accident also resulted in permanent damage to her sight in both eyes.

The MAIB said that currently there are no regulations preventing passengers on RIBs from sitting on the inflatable tubes.

“However, passengers not sitting on suitable inboard seating have an increased risk of falling overboard, are at significant risk of musculoskeletal injuries and, as identified in this accident, are more likely to be seriously injured in the event of a collision,” it said in its report.

It has recommended to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that its forthcoming Recreational Craft Code should include the stipulation that the certified maximum number of passengers carried on commercially operated passenger carrying RIBs should be limited to the number of suitable seats designated for passengers.

It has also made the same recommendation to the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) with the aim of improving the guidance available to the operators of commercial passenger carrying RIBs.

The MAIB said the operating company of Osprey and Osprey II, Isle of May Boat Trips Ltd, had since banned similar manoeuvres in future and has prohibited crew and passengers from sitting on the RIB inflatable tubes.