The UK MAIB has issued investigation report regarding the carbon monoxide poisoning on board a motor cruiser, to highlight lessons learned and increase awareness of the leisure boating community to the dangers of CO. Considering that carbon monoxide is a silent killer, the UK MAIB cites how important is for boats to be fitted with carbon monoxide alarms, especially in areas where carbon monoxide could accumulate and pose a risk to health, such as the accommodation areas of motor cruisers.
The accident occurred onboard a motor cruiser, which was moored alongside Wroxham Island, River Bure, Norfolk last year. On June 2016, the crew of the boat, a couple, were found deceased. Investigation identified that the couple had died from carbon monoxide poisoning and concluded to the following:
- The source of the carbon monoxide was exhaust fumes from the boat’s large inboard petrol engine.
- The engines exhaust emissions contained very high levels of CO even when idling.
- The boat’s habitable spaces were not adequately ventilated; the forepeak cabin’s deck hatch and port holes were shut.
- The boat’s occupants were not alerted to the danger because a carbon monoxide alarm was not fitted.
The UK MAIB highlights that carbon monoxide is a silent killer. The symptoms can be similar to colds, flu or hangovers; headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, confusion, stomach pain and shortage of breath are warning signs of its presence. If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, it is important to stop the source, get to fresh air and seek medical attention. In addition, few important issues for consideration:
- It is essential that carbon monoxide sensors are fitted in areas where carbon monoxide could accumulate and pose a risk to health (such as the accommodation areas of motor cruisers).
- The use of canopies can lead to the accumulation of carbon monoxide within an enclosed space and potentially increase the risk of poisoning, even when a boat is making way. Ensure that all spaces, including those under a canopy or an awning are always well ventilated.
- CO may not always originate from internal sources or even from your own vessel. The occupants of neighbouring boats are at risk when moored near vessels emitting high concentrations of CO.