A navy that can't even work a rubber boat

THREE high-level investigations into the capsizing of a naval boat - dumping eight senior defence officials in calm waters - have identified speed as a key factor in the accident.

Not that the jet-propelled inflatable was going too fast, but rather too slow to complete the transfer of the Department of Defence Remuneration Tribunal officials to a moving frigate.

A maritime safety inquiry revealed the Juliet 3 Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) had less stability at low speed and was travelling at less than eight knots when it flipped over. It also found that there were "too many people seated too far forward" and this destabilised the vessel.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the tribunal officials were being transferred from HMAS Maitland to HMAS Darwin when Juliet 3 overturned on July 27 last year.

One tribunal member suffered concussion, another a back injury while a third is still undergoing treatment for knee and arm pain.

The navy investigations found a large volume of water went over the bow of the boat shortly before it rolled.

Chief of Navy, Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs, revealed all eight tribunal members, who were aged between 40 and 60, and two crew landed in the water.

Three investigations were launched, including a maritime safety inquiry which found speed was the most likely cause of the incident, he said.

A Comcare investigation due to be released next month identifies 10 areas of improvement.

Vice-Admiral Griggs denied Opposition claims that modifications to the boats had made them unstable, but admitted that crew needed to ensure that not too many people were seated "too far forward" in the boats.

"There were too many people too far forward so, when the boat lost directional stability, it allowed the bow to go into the water and chip the water over the bow, which caused the capsize."

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston said it was of concern that civilians had been in the boat at the time.


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