Inadequate Lookouts Led to Collision Between Superyacht and Tanker in the Bahamas

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Tropic Breeze crew wearing lifejackets in the liferaft and rescue boat before rescue. The Utopia IV is in the background. (Source: Amara)

Inadequate Lookouts Led to Collision Between Superyacht and Tanker in the Bahamas

Mike Schuler

January 11, 2023

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Two crews not maintaining proper lookouts led to the December 2021 collision between a superyacht and a tanker near Nassau, Bahamas, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

The collision resulted in the sinking of the tanker and nearly $7.9 million in damages.

The MY Utopia IV and oil products tank vessel Tropic Breeze were transiting the Northeast Providence Channel on December 23, 2021, when the two vessels collided. The Tropic Breeze’s engine room flooded, and the vessel eventually sank. The vessel’s seven crewmembers abandoned ship and were rescued by a Good Samaritan vessel. Three of the 12 crewmembers on the Utopia IV were injured.

The 63-meter Utopia IV was built in 2018 by Italian yacht builder Rossinavi. The yacht is currently for sale on the Moran Yacht & Ship website for $49,900,000.

Before the collision, the captain of the Utopia IV was conning the vessel while the bosun navigated and kept a bridge log. On watch on the bridge Tropic Breeze was the master and an able seafarer.

The captain of the Utopia IV left the bridge shortly before the collision to check on the seven yacht passengers. The bosun, who was not credentialed as a watch officer and was not allowed by regulations to conn the vessel alone, was left performing watchstanding duties by himself and logging navigational data.

Utopia IV (left) and Tropic Breeze (right) before the casualty. (Sources: Rossinavi [left]; Capt. Chris Knowles [right])

At 11:00 p.m. Eastern time, the bow of the Utopia IV, traveling at about 20 knots, struck the transom of the Tropic Breeze, moving at only 5 knots, from directly astern.

None of the watchstanders on the Utopia IV or Tropic Breeze reported seeing the other vessel on radar. According to the report, it is likely none of the watchstanders had looked at the radar in the 12 minutes before the collision.

During the voyage, the Tropic Breeze’s automatic identification system was inoperative due to a power issue. The NTSB said if the unit was working, Utopia IV’s watchstander could have detected the Tropic Breeze before the collision and the Tropic Breeze’s system would have been able to identify the yacht’s position as it approached from astern.

NTSB investigators concluded that if either vessel had kept a proper lookout, they likely would have detected each other and could have taken action to avoid the collision.

The NTSB determined the probable cause of the collision was the Utopia IV’s wheelhouse crew not maintaining a proper lookout and therefore not identifying the tanker they were overtaking. Contributing was the Tropic Breeze’s bridge team also not maintaining a proper lookout.

“A proper lookout by suitably trained crewmembers is required by the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 and is essential in determining the risk of collision,” the report said. “The effective use of all available resources by a bridge team, including visual scanning, radars, electronic charts, and an automatic identification system, increases collective situational awareness and contributes to a safe navigation watch. Operators and crews should ensure that vessel bridge teams are staffed with certificated/credentialed mariners who are familiar with all bridge navigation equipment and able to independently take immediate action.”

Marine Investigation Report 22-29 is available on the NTSB’s website.

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