Passengers take a dip when bow goes underwater

Lookout! Issue 27, December 2012

Children were among a group of passengers who got an unexpected dousing when the bow of the catamaran they were on dropped into a wave.

Up to 10 of 50 passengers on a morning swimwith- the-dolphins cruise were sitting on the catamaran’s foredeck when it dipped without warning. As part of their safety briefing before departure, passengers had been advised to stay seated and hold on when travelling on the bow. While no injuries resulted from their abrupt dive underwater, the passengers were soaked and one person struck their shins on the railing.

The catamaran trip had been underway for about two hours when the incident occurred, as a result of the vessel changing its angle to the sea in swells about 1.5 metres high. The engines were immediately cut and a crew member came up front to check that no one had gone overboard, before the catamaran continued to a beach where people could disembark and dry off.


  • The vessel’s operator failed to record the incident, and it was a passenger who brought it to authorities’ attention. Skippers are expected to keep proper records of all incidents and report them as soon as possible.
    • Although no harm resulted, the Maritime Transport Act 1994 still requires skippers to report any accidents, incidents, near misses or mishaps within a reasonable time after the event (usually on the same day, unless exceptional circumstances prevent it).
  • It is quick and easy for skippers to report incidents using MNZ’s online accident reporting tool.
  • The passengers received a proper safety briefing before setting out on the catamaran, but no explanation was provided to them after the incident occurred. It is vital for the skipper to clearly communicate with passengers when a distressing and potentially dangerous incident like this has occurred.
  • Operators of passenger vessels should consider the safety of people on the bow at all times, and only allow people to ride up front when there is a low risk of the bow dropping underwater or large waves hitting them. Unless the skipper says it is safe for passengers to ride there, the foredeck should be considered a ‘no go’ area.

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