All sailing passenger ships in the Dutch historic sailing fleet will undergo additional survey before 1 April 2024. It is one of the measures to ensure that the fleet will be demonstrably safer before the start of the next sailing season. Minister Harbers of Infrastructure and Water Management informed Parliament of this.

The measures follow the report released by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) in September, following two fatal accidents involving historic sailing vessels. The DSB found that recommendations made after a fatal accident in 2016 had been insufficiently followed.

Also read: Supervision of historic sailing fleet still inadequate

Task force

The report prompted Minister Harbers to put together a task force including all parties involved: the Ministry, the Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT), the Accreditation Council, inspection bodies and the professional charter shipping association (branchevereniging voor de beroepschartervaart, BBZ). This task force is now getting everything ready for the additional surveys of mast and rigging to start from January. The first inspections will be carried out in December to get off to a brisk start in January.

One of the agencies carrying out surveys for inland navigation was recently suspended by the Accreditation Council. But with the commitment of all parties involved, the additional surveys can be carried out before the start of the boating season. For this, it is obviously important that all skippers take responsibility and cooperate fully with the surveys. The surveys will be conducted in pairs of experts from the market and ILT inspectors.

The task force has worked out two different types of measures to make the fleet demonstrably safer: short-term measures, such as the additional examination of mast and rigging of vessels based on rejection criteria to be included in inspection instructions, and measures that require more time.

Joining BBZ

In addition to the supplementary surveys, efforts are also being made to get more boaters to join industry organisation BBZ, as a lot of knowledge and information is available there on safety. Currently, only forty per cent of boaters are affiliated. The ministry and ILT, together with shipowners and insurers, will look at how to reach the remaining sixty per cent.

For the period after 1 April 2024, it will be investigated how standards developed by the industry itself can be enshrined in regulations. In addition, it is being considered whether the requirements for obtaining a sailing licence should be tightened.

Minister Harbers of Infrastructure and Water Management: ‘All parties are aware that things have to improve and have been committed to this since September. It is good that we can take these concrete steps in the coming months, but we will also continue after 1 April to make the historic sailing fleet demonstrably safer. We owe that to all sailors.’

Also read: Occupational accidents top the list in Dutch Safety Board report