Sunday, August 24, 2008

Update on Ouzo

On a weekend where the coastguard strike highlights the issue of safety at sea, there's this interesting article at the FT site looking back at the loss of the yacht Ouzo almost exactly 2 years ago.

It gives a more comprehensive description of the cases put forward by both the prosecution and defence teams in the trial for manslaughter of the Pride of Bilbao's officer of the watch.

Its worth reminding ourselves of the two key claims of the defence:

1) That in a force 5 with favourable tides the average speed of the Ouzo was just 2 knots (this explains the backward position of the yacht that wasn't clear in the BBC report I referenced earlier).

2) There was another yacht similar to the Ouzo out sailing that night which had a close encounter with the Pride of Bilbao but didn't report it

Its hard to believe either claim on its own, but both must be believed simultaneously for the defence's claim to accepted.

I've seen articles saying simply "So what? Its up to small boats to keep out of the way of big ones". Yes of course you should do everything you can to avoid getting too close to them. But sometimes things go wrong - there are engine failures, medical problems, and so on - and the big boats can not just plough on regardless.

At night its hard to find the person overboard and even in August life expectancy in the water is all too short.

Safety of life is the responsibility of all at sea.

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