MAIB criticises Cobra RIBs after hull design dispute

RIB manufacturer Cobra has come under fire for refusing to alter its hull design following the Padstow accident that killed Nick and Emily Milligan

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has revealed that Cobra RIBs refused to change its hull design in light of a fatal accident.

Nick and Emily Milligan were killed in the Camel Estuary off Padstow on May 5, 2013, after they were ejected from the family’s 300hp Cobra RIB Milly, which hooked during a tight turn.

The MAIB’s official report found that no-one on board the 8m RIB was wearing a killcord at the time of the accident and made recommendations on the matter to the RYA.

The association has since updated its training courses to include advice on how to avoid and mitigate the effects of hooking.

However, the MAIB’s suggestion that the hull design of the Cobra RIB could be changed to reduce the risk of hooking during sharp turns has not been taken up, according to the organisation’s annual report.

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Hull design dispute

APV Marine, which builds the Cobra range, carried out tests in light of the fatal accident, but concluded that “our hull design is extremely safe in all likely and realistic manoeuvres”.

As a result, the company told the MAIB that they have “made no change and do not plan to make any changes”.

However, the investigators are not satisfied with this decision, writing in the annual report: “The manufacturer’s reluctance to consider undertaking such modifications is extremely disappointing in view of the circumstances of this accident.

“There is evidence to suggest that appropriate modifications to the hull design would improve the handling characteristics of these craft in tight turns and help to reduce the likelihood of similar fatal accidents in the future.”

Cobra RIBs was founded in 1988 and has sold more than 1,500 RIBs in the 7.5m+ category.

Speaking in response to the MAIB report, Josh Arkell from Cobra RIBs said: “We push our boats really hard in the tesing procedures to find out what the limits are.

“We take the MAIB’s comments very seriously, so we went out and redid these tests. We ran it through rough seas as hard as it would go.

“Any boat misbehaves if you give it enough stick, but we found that the boat is completely safe in any normal procedure.

“Sometimes everything goes wrong for a person and the Milligan’s were just very unlucky in how it lined up for them.”

In its original report, the MAIB noted that the Cobra 8m RIB operates at a high heel angle in turns, up to 25-30°, which can suddenly increase to an estimated 35-40° in tight turns at speed.

At this angle the keel was noticed to lift clear of the water, allowing the stern to slide sideways, a process known as ‘hooking’.

Although this handling characteristic was described as “undesirable”, it is by no means unique to this particular make and model of boat.


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