Safety warning issued following a serious passenger injury during a rigid inflatable boat ride

Owners and operators of small commercial passenger vessels are urged to review their operations and procedures in line with current safety guidance.

a rigid inflatable boat

This follows an investigation by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

On 7 June 2023, a passenger on a sea safari rigid inflatable boat (RIB) suffered a spinal injury that left them paralysed from the waist downwards. Twelve passengers had boarded the RIB and, once it was clear of the jetty, the two crew gave them a safety briefing and instruction on the wearing of lifejackets. The RIB then proceeded out to sea and was increasing speed in choppy sea conditions when it encountered a steep-sided wave. The boat fell off the wave and slammed violently into the trough, dislodging the passenger from a seat at the forward end of the boat.

Safety issues

  • there is a significantly higher risk of spinal fractures to people seated in the front area of RIBs, regardless of speed
  • seated individuals may have little or no understanding of boat movement or how to mitigate its effects

Statement from the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents

Safety lessons

Owners and operators of small commercial passenger vessels are strongly advised to:

  • urgently review operations and risk assessments, referencing the guidance linked below to mitigate risks outlined in the safety bulletin
  • review passenger pre-departure briefings and bring into line with current guidance

An investigation report into the accident on 7 June 2023 will be published in due course, details of the case is on our current investigations list.

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