Lack of impartiality claims

Simon Speirs died in November 2017 Simon Speirs died in November 2017
Industry Database

Clipper Ventures has called on the Department for Transport to hold an independent inquiry to establish the full extent of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Marine Accident Investigation Branch investigatory teams’ failure of professionalism, impartiality and honesty.

The call follows an investigation into the death of Simon Speirs by the organisations.

On the November 18 2017, Simon, a 60-year-old retired solicitor, fell overboard while helping to reduce sail.

The yacht, CV30, owned by Clipper Ventures, was participating in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and was experiencing increasing winds and sea state in the Southern Ocean. Simon was tethered to the boat but fell overboard due to a failure of a tether safety clip. He was recovered but could not be resuscitated. He was buried at sea.

Considerable concern

The accident was investigated by both the MCA and MAIB with the conclusions the cause of considerable concern, said Clipper Ventures in a statement.

At a meeting between Clipper Ventures and the new MCA CEO the statement continued, “it was revealed that, after a new enquiry into the actions of the MCA Enforcement Official who had initiated and headed up a number of investigations concerning Clipper Ventures, multiple errors and distortions of the truth had been discovered.”

These errors, says Clipper Ventures, include the fact that the MCA claimed there was a vessel within 60 miles of the yacht that could have taken the body home for burial which the MAIB has not admitted was not true - the nearest vessel was actually 1500 miles away.

Lack of resources

In addition, Clipper Ventures says it has carried out all the MAIB’s recommendations except for the MCA inspection which the company says is due to the organisation’s lack of resources. Clipper Ventures therefore has had its systems assessed and approved by two independent auditors.

In addition, the failure of the safety tether is being examined by the sailing industry, however, these industry learnings have been diluted by a number of factual errors in the MAIB report, continues Clipper Ventures.

The statement concludes: “The MCA and MAIB investigations followed remarkably parallel courses and it has to be suspected that significant and improper influence was applied to the MAIB investigation by the MCA team.

“Clipper Ventures has often complained of lack of impartiality at the MAIB, a belief now held more strongly than ever. The safety of its crew is the highest priority for Clipper Ventures and has been since the race was established in 1996.”

Simon's widow, Margaret, said that his family has no reason to believe anything in the report is incorrect.

"The MAIB accident report, which took 18 months to research and write, was very detailed. The MAIB is an impartial government body tasked with making recommendations to prevent future accidents on UK registered vessels," she said.

“All parties who had a material interest in matters covered by the report, including our family and Clipper Ventures, were given 30 days to respond to the draft before it was published. If these parties' representations did not result in changes to the draft report we understand that it was because the MAIB were confident of the accuracy and fairness of their conclusions and recommendations."

She added: “With three fatalities plus the grounding of a yacht in the last two races, we believe that this record warrants scrutiny of the race organiser's risk management and safety procedures to ensure that no other family has to suffer in the way we have."

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