The owner and captain of a commercial rowing boat has been given a suspended prison sentence after a crew member fell overboard during an Atlantic crossing attempt. The owner, Simon Chalk, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safe operation of his vessel. The victim, Michael Johnson, was swept overboard by a wave and was not wearing a life jacket or personal locator beacon. The court found serious failings in the crew’s training and safety procedures.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) conducted an investigation into the incident and found that commercially operated offshore rowing boats are unregulated and lack minimum safety standards. As a result, the agency recommended that British Rowing and the Coast Guard improve the management and safety standards for commercial boats. The rowing boat’s operator, Oceanus Rowing Ltd, was also advised to enhance the safety of its future ocean crossings.
The MCA’s investigation report revealed that, in addition to the man-overboard incident, another of Oceanus Rowing’s boats had to be rescued due to damage sustained in rough seas just two days prior to the incident. This further highlighted the need for improved safety measures in commercial rowing boats. Chalk was sentenced to 12 months in prison, with 12 months suspended, for his failure to ensure the safety of his crew and vessel.