Dockwalk - The Essential Site For Captains And Crew - DockTalk Untitled Page

Welcome to the Forum


In order to post a comment in one of the forum topics, you must log in or sign up. Your display name will appear next to your posts unless you check the Post Anonymously box. When writing a post, please follow our forum guidelines. If you come across a post that you would like us to review, use the Report Post button. Please note the opinions shared in the forums do not necessarily reflect the views of Dockwalk.

RSS Feed Print
M/Y Princess Gigi
Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 3:02 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 392

Dockwalk magazine's regular column, What Went Wrong by Kelly Sanford, highlights a different marine accident each month, focusing on the lessons learned. We've received feedback that some readers would like to comment on it. So we're republishing it in the forum so you can have your say.

The July 2010 column recounts a story of M/Y Princess Gigi.



On February 4, 2006, the crew aboard the 124-foot Trident M/Y Princess Gigi departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida, en route to St. Maarten. On the second day of the voyage – about 60 miles northeast of Samana Cay, Bahamas – the boat began taking on water and lost power. Despite efforts to overcome the situation, the boat eventually capsized.


The insurance company initially declined to pay for the loss, claiming it was caused by a defect in the garage door that made the vessel unseaworthy.


However, according to a publication of the Maritime Law Association of the United States, “Following a bench trial, the district court ruled for the insured [the yacht’s owner] on all claims…. With regard to the yacht’s alleged unseaworthiness, the court concluded that the numerous design, structural and equipment deficiencies identified by the insurer were either trivial or had been sufficiently remedied by the time the policy took effect.”


So what went wrong? According to an expert witness at the trial, captain/surveyor Mike Christian, when the vessel departed Fort Lauderdale, seas were about four feet. The captain stated that he knew a cold front was approaching, but he intended to stay in front of it. However, on the second day, winds clocked around to the north and seas began building with a considerable underlying swell.


In a deposition, Christian says the engineer noted that at 1500h, “He observed water dripping from the engine room exhaust vent located port side aft in the main engine compartment…onto the battery charger.” The engineer stated that he restarted an exhaust fan, which appeared to stop the ingress of water and wiped down the charger…before being relieved from watch.


“Nothing further was reported until approximately 2030h on the same evening…waves had increased to eight feet plus and were reported to be on the port quarter,” Christian says. While the crew were having dinner, the interior lights began to flicker and go out. When the engineer returned to the engine room, the high-water bilge alarm was sounding – between six and eight inches of water lay in the bilge and the port generator had shut down. Both the port and center bilges held significant amounts of water and the engineer could see water coming in through the port exhaust vent.


When notified, the captain turned the boat into the oncoming swells while the first officer and deckhand assisted the engineer in starting the starboard generator. Next, the first officer took the helm and the captain went below. The captain reported in his deposition that he observed water splashing through the port exhaust vent as he entered the engine room.

Shortly thereafter, the port main engine quit.


At this point, the DC bilge pumps were working and the AC pump was activated. The captain and first officer also reported that they opened up the emergency dewatering pump that was part of the raw water pickup for the starboard main. “With the starboard generator operable, the crew reported that the pumps appeared to be keeping up with the ingress of sea water,” says Christian. However, both the starboard generator and main engine soon quit, leaving the crew in the dark and the vessel “dead in the water.”


Working with flashlights, the crew could see the water getting deeper and noticed that the boat was now sitting low enough that water had begun seeping through the I-beam protruding from the port garage.


After both engines and generators failed, Christian says the crew attempted to manually transfer fuel to the day tank, but they could not get the generator back on line. A nearby commercial vessel offered to hand off jugs of fuel, an endeavor that Christian says may have delivered the final blow. The vessels collided in the effort, causing more damage to the yacht.


A USCG helicopter arrived and lowered a supplemental pump, which failed for unknown reasons after 45 minutes. At 0300h, the USCG declared the vessel to be in danger of capsizing and evacuated everyone aboard.


What ultimately caused Princess Gigi to sink was a series of unfortunate circumstances and several manning errors that by themselves might be embarrassing, but hardly were cause for a vessel to capsize. But, given the “perfect storm” of circumstances, the boat was lost.

Princess Gigi had an innate port list. The USCG pilot stated that at the time of the incident, there was a 30-foot swell with eight-foot breaking waves. Due to the angle of the sea, water was able to rush in through the port vent.


After a complete investigation, Christian determined that all four engines failed due to fuel starvation. The engineer did his final ER check at 1500h. In their depositions, the crew notes nothing further until 2030h. Christian explains that the mains and generators drew from a 550-gallon day tank. That day, the captain reported an average speed of 10 to 12 knots, which meant they would be consuming 85 to 90 gallons per hour – meaning right around 2000h the engines would start sucking air if fuel had not been transferred.


Further complicating an already dire situation, if the valves for the emergency bilge pump were not closed when power was lost, thousands of gallons of water would have flooded in, along with water coming through the vents and seeping in from other sources.


If it had just been a quartering sea, or if it had just been a missed fuel transfer, then there likely would have been no material loss. Unfortunately, because the two events happened in unison, the result was devastating – thankfully no lives were lost.

Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 9:02 PM
As a yacht engineer these are my rules . sole acting engineer- it is in his or her best interest to keep well abreast of all unusual events, particularly on a long passage some distance offshore.It seems evident the engineer should have been notified of any changes in the power generation/propulsion systems operation and performance and the vessels handling in a seaway. irrespective of being on watch or not... and not gone off watch until the issues could be tracked down and 100 percent confirmed. and or a contingency plan created with the support of the mate and captain. had this been the case the missed fuel transfer would have been noticed, and an alternative course given to remove quartering seas.
Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 9:23 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1024

Hey that was an old story. Need a new accident to comment on. What about the big yacht that just burnt up in Vouliagmeni ? Oh Well... Not sure what others think but Princess Gigi sounds like a poorly commissioned yacht. Day tank without a low level alarm ?? Bilge pump with discharge plumbing below the waterline that allows water to siphon back into the ship ? Bilge high water alarms that couldnt be heard at the dinner table ?? No waterproof bulkheads aft ? Hmm.. Princess Gigi and her crew had no business being at sea.
Capt Kaj
Posted: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 8:31 AM
Joined: 05/08/2008
Posts: 83

It is an all too familiar story with unprofessional crew manning these yachts, I sincerely hope the crew from this particular one are no longer in our industry, sadly they are probably running much larger vessels and earning more money and probably still practicing their old habits. Is it that old habits die hard or is it die hards have old habits? Sadly qualifications are just the beginning, they have to be backed up with procedure and professionalism. I wonder what flag the Princess GiGi was and when she was last surveyed or inspected?

In the last week there have been 2 terminal fires onboard 2 yachts here in Mallorca where both were a total loss, luckily no one was injured in either. Not to mention the daily occurrances of idiots behind the wheel at speed. The other day in Ibiza we were anchored off in 8m of water and between us and the beach which was 500m away, a cigarette boat raced passed at around 50kn, bow trimmed up and heading straight into the sunset weaving between the mass of yachts anhored and swimmers all between them........another accident report waiting to happen.

Capt Kaj

Posted: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 9:26 AM
"On February 4, 2006, the crew aboard the 124-foot Trident M/Y Princess Gigi departed Nassau, Bahamas, en route to St. Maarten."
Posted: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 3:34 PM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1061

LOL, there sailed the proverbial ship of fools. Running out of fuel? Really? YHGTBSM. Not that I buy the helicopter pilots estimation of 30 ft swell with 8'sea as wholey accurate, but even if the swell was half that, what the hell was the captain thinking running in that when he had protected waters nearby? These are yachts, not ocean going tugs, and even if you have a boat that is all weather capable, the interiors are typically not. If he drew too much to comfortably run across the protected water (though there's always a way to stay reasonably sheltered with up to a 12' draft and keep running) he could have just sat it out for a day or so in a hidy hole.  Even if that made him a day late for a charter, it would have been less of a delay than fixing the damage that would have been done even if they had not sunk the boat. That brings us to the next lot of fools, the designers. It's a DAY tank, it should last at least 12 hrs with normal running load, and why would water splashing up the hull be given ingress directly into the engine room? WTF is up with that? Why is the emergency pumping system able to flood the engine compartment upon loss of power? Huh? Really? Complete comedy, and I bet it had a Lloyd's class survey on it....

Posted: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 6:08 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1024

The whole scenario sounds too goofy to be true. As Henning noted ...GiGi was in the coastal waters of the Bahamas , it would have only taken a simple detour inshore for shelter. And 30 ft swells... sounds like a fishermans tale about the one that got away. If true the crew of Gigi must have been wearing seat belts and had iron stomachs to remain seated at dinner, while the lights flickering on their wounded gin palace.
Posted: Thursday, July 15, 2010 9:50 PM
Joined: 21/06/2008
Posts: 17

"The engineer stated that he restarted an exhaust fan, which appeared to stop the ingress of water and wiped down the charger…before being relieved from watch."

"Appeared to stop the ingress of Water"  is not what one would hope to hear from your engineer at tea time before he heads off watch. Let alone not answering the question, why was the exhaust fan off?  In my book, either water is coming in, or it is not. APPEARED to have stopped, help !  And where was he in such a rush to be?

 OK, while it is not really appropriate or fair to make judgments on people when one has not got all the information, it does bring to point another accident that was most likely preventable, and if it had not been for the USCG, perhaps there would have been personal injury. As far as I can figure out from the comments everyone is pretty much besides themselves to read another account of people who are pulling the industry down for lack of knowledge and training.
It is inconceivable to think that in a good sea, and knowing there was more to come, that everyone was not on their toes and looking for something to go wrong. Which it did. This is about many things, poor design, poor seamanship, poor management and the most important poor leadership.

All  are possible to develop and learn. So lets see some comments on what this incident can teach us. (serious ones) Use this as a training exercise for your crew. You will have to make some assumptions, go on the information written by Janine and be inventive on your own.  Print it out and ask your Deck crew, interior crew all your crew, to comment on what they see as problems and see if they miss anything. Have them compare the scenario to your own procedures, if an O.O.W or just a crew on a engine room check found a leak, what is the difference they see to the report and how you run your vessel. Run the scenario and see what you learn, what we all learn. Post some comments here or shoot me some on to my blog, (SIMONGB) I would love to hear from the future Captains and engineers and read their comments. Even better show it to your owner and see if you can get them to make a comment. This is about their money and investment as well.
So do all your crew have the confidence to report what they are not sure is a problem or what they may assume is the someone else problem. Do they have the people skills to stand up to the Captain the Mate the Engineer and tell them of a problem ? Safe seas and happy sailing.

Posted: Friday, July 16, 2010 11:30 PM
Joined: 30/07/2008
Posts: 4


All I have to say is not only are you right on the mark every time but, you always make me laugh. Only in this very unfortunate story could someone think of "YHGTBSM" and I would know exactly what that means. There is never a good enough reason to put a vessel or crew in that kind of situation especially when there is shelter not that far away. The storm did not just suddenly start, they were trying to out run it and lost. It is lucky that no one was hurt and hopefully everyone can learn from this and make safety first and not just schedules.

Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2010 4:04 PM
Joined: 28/10/2008
Posts: 26

What ever happed to hourly or half hourly enginroom checks??? If there were a sole engineer onboard it should not have been just up to him to tend to the ER or be soley in charge of fuel transfers - when is the guy supposed to sleep? On that sized vessel if regular hourly or half hourly ER checks were not implemented then it is most certainly the captains poor judgement not to arrange for this. Of couse there should be at least two persons anyway - one watch person doing the regular rounds and checks. A captain of that sized yacht should also have had enough engineering experience to be able to do fuel transfers and understand the fundamental systems onboard and to be able to attend to them, what if the engineer was injured??? Who would be able to tend to the ER? Anyway, no yacht should be out in that kind of weather unless it is built for severe weather ocean travel and with the Bahamas and shelter so close by it was rediculous to be out there in the first place. There is so much weather info at a captains fingertips these days to help in pre depature planning. Prudency was not part of this captains program. Idiots for sure.
Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:29 AM
Joined: 26/11/2008
Posts: 9

Again Mr. Dear Abby laying judgement on something you probably havent heard all of the facts. Running out of fuel is really stupid but I dont believe we have heard all of the facts in this case. Calling them a ship of fools- pretty foolish especially coming from you.
 Average 4 out of 5