Grounding of aircrew training launch Smit Cymyran

Location: East Platters rocks near Holyhead, Wales

Completed PE Summary: Smit Cymyran

Category   Merchant
Vessel name   Smit Cymyran
Registered Owner & Manager:   Smit International (Scotland) Ltd
Type:   Aircrew Training Launch
Built:   1989
Classification Society:   None
Construction:   Steel
Length overall:   23.94m
Gross tonnage:   105
Date & Time   20 August 2007 10:45
Location of incident:   Coastal Waters
Incident Type:   Grounding
Persons onboard:   8
Injuries/ fatalities:   None


At 10:45 on 20 August 2007 the aircrew training launch Smit Cymyran grounded at a speed of 13 knots on the East Platters rocks near Holyhead. Weather conditions and visibility were good, and the master, mate and the chief engineer were in the wheelhouse.

Smit Cymyran was employed on Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter crew training, and was conducting a high-line transfer exercise at the time of the grounding. Having rendezvoused with the helicopter, the launch had continued on a straight course, on autopilot, to provide a steady training platform. Twenty minutes into the drill, the launch grounded violently and became impaled on the East Platters rocks. The master quickly decided to abandon the vessel, and the crew was immediately lifted off by the SAR training helicopter which had remained in close attendance. Fortunately, there were no injuries and no pollution.

With the assistance of the RNLI and MOD personnel the launch was salvaged, and later beached in Holyhead.

The master and mate considered they had good local knowledge, and so were navigating by eye. They had not plotted the RV position, their course to steer or their course made good, and were not fixing the launch’s position. Neither had they calculated the tidal height or stream. Consequently, they did not realise that, due to the effect of the tidal stream, Smit Cymyran had started her SAR training run further north than anticipated, or that the stream was setting the launch towards the East Platters. As the launch approached the channel between the Skerries and Carmel Head, they did not notice the turbulence of the tidal stream running over the rocks just below the surface, and so took no action to avoid the grounding.

Action taken

The managers of Smit Cymyran have conducted a full internal investigation. As a result the following changes are to be implemented:

  • Managers will improve their audits and inspections of similar vessels, in order to fully verify compliance with company requirements, through prolonged observations during regular visits by managers.

  • Smit Cymyran will be fitted with an electronic chart plotter, linked to the launch’s existing GPS system.

  • Managers, in liaison with charterers, have introduced an exclusion zone prohibiting helicopter winching and certain other training in Holyhead bay.

The Charterers will re-audit the Holyhead operation within the next 3 months.

Published 23 January 2015