Boom in boating accidents (and deaths). What is happening and what we can do

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(Olbia.co.uk image source)

With the pandemic restrictions lifted, we have seen a surge in boat accidents since June.

FOUR DEATHS IN JUNE ALONE FROM BOATING ACCIDENTS

Some, unfortunately, have had deadly consequences: some time ago a 12-meter fisherman, launched at full speed, rammed a sailboat just under 10 meters in front of Portisco in broad daylight, killing the 69-year-old skipper. Then there was the case of the speedboat that, at night, at full speed ran over and killed two young men aboard a wooden launch on Lake Garda in Salò. On Lake Como, a few days later, a boat carrying 20 people launched at full speed to go water skiing ran over a boat with three people: one, a 22-year-old young man, died instantly. In one month, four deaths from water accidents. So many, too many (in recent years, the average is ten cases per year).

In short, many have wondered. What’s going on? And what can be done to avoid these situations? Let’s start by saying in the last couple of years the waters of the Mediterranean are more crowded than usual, so, at least from a statistical point of view, it is physiological that there is an increase in boat accidents (which, it should be remembered are in the ratio of 1/300 compared to car accidents).

DRIVER’S LICENSE REQUIREMENT? MAYBE THE “PATENT” IS BETTER

There are those who talk about mandatory boating licenses, even for engines under 40 horsepower, pointing the finger at the fact that boats, often, are also rented to those who know nothing about boats. It must also be said, however, that the way the boating license is structured nowadays (lots of theory-even outdated theory-and very little practice: not to mention that in the days of covid the time for exams has lengthened by leaps and bounds), this is no guarantee of greater responsibility on the part of those who are driving a boat.

Perhaps Assonautica di Venezia’s proposal, which acts “upstream,” makes more sense: a kind of mini-boating license for sailing within three miles. An idea that aims to train a new generation of boaters who are more aware and able to go to sea more safely. But also to approach an audience of boaters who, for a variety of reasons forgo the classic license, with a simpler, but more limiting one. In fact, neither charting tests nor headlight study would be included in this mini license. The boat would be usable de facto only during the day and within 3 miles of the coast. Just in the strip of sea where boating accidents typically occur.

The goal of the patent? The creation of that famous “boating culture,” teaching what are the basic rules for safety at sea. Because in the end the issue is always cultural. Experiencing boating with greater awareness and respect for other boats sailing, learning to keep apart in every situation, and moderating speed in busy waters seem like obvious behaviors, but we know better.

AUTOPILOT YES, AUTOPILOT NO

There is also another theme. Studying the dynamics of some of the accidents, it appears that often the boat causing the collision had the autopilot on. The problem is not the use of autopilot, but the speed of the boat. Again, we return to “boating culture.” Who would sail at 20 knots on autopilot, with no one at the helm, near the coast? No one with common sense. Yet it happened. To counteract this (very limited, fortunately) phenomenon, one solution might be to have some sort of – automotive-style – speed alert if you sail with the pilot engaged near the coast (technologically, by interfacing the GPS with the autopilot and beeping the speeding signal, this would be feasible), raising the limit to 8-10 knots?

We do not discuss AIS and Radar here, but they should be on board every boat (at least 10 meters and up), because they are an essential tool for seeing and being seen at sea, in all conditions.

Let us know with a comment what your proposals are to minimize collisions and accidents in boating.


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