Stability standards of the International Standardization Organization’s ISO 12217-1, Small Craft—Stability and Buoyancy Assessment and Categorization, and the Construction Standards for Small Vessels (TP 1332) lack some risk factors that may have an impact on small vessel stability. Small vessels that are assessed solely against these standards may meet the criteria yet have insufficient stability warns the The Transportation Safety Board of Canada, TSB, investigation into the capsize of Fireboat 08-448B during training and familiarization exercises in Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia on the morning of 17 September 2008.
ISO standards that do not reflect a realistic average mass per person allow vessels to be assessed against unrealistic operating conditions, says TSB.
The firefighter at the controls had never docked the vessel before, a series of practice runs were initiated alongside a small buoy in Dartmouth Cove. Following several runs, the firefighter moved the vessel ahead, put the wheel over to port, and slowly increased both throttles. After completing an estimated 90 degrees of a 180-degree turn, the vessel began to heel to port. The operator immediately pulled back on both throttles, but was instructed by the instructor to increase throttle. He complied, but the vessel continued to heel over, and before it had completed a 180-degree turn, the vessel rolled over and capsized.
TSB found that in its departure condition, the vessel had limited reserve stability due to its load distribution on deck and that the vessel capsized when the engine thrust created a heeling moment sufficient to overcome the vessel’s righting moment during a slow turn to port.
Says the report: “The operator’s manual supplied with the fireboat was incomplete and did not provide important vessel-specific information with respect to the vessel’s load capacity. The manual stated that the vessel could safely carry seven persons, provided the load capacity was not exceeded; however, at the time of the occurrence, there were eight persons on board.
“Without knowing the load capacity, there was no way for the operator to determine whether the boat was safe to operate.”
All eight person aboard where able to escape. Injuries included water ingestion, mild hypothermia, and minor cuts and abrasions. None of the injuries were life threatening.
The investigation found that the operator’s manual was not specific to this particular vessel – it was a manual produced for an earlier vessel with a different layout, equipment, and instrument/helm configuration; the engine kill switch had not been secured to the operator by a ‘dead man’s lanyard’; The inboard engine compartment hatch had not been closed and secured; The starboard pilot house door had been installed upside down; The bilge pump overboard, which was installed very close to the waterline, was not fitted with a non-return valve; crew members were not instructed on the use of the door latch system nor notified that the starboard door had been installed upside down.