Report from 2012 High Speed Boat Operations Forum in Sweden
The Forum is a three day event with 260 delegates from 27 countries, all focused on high speed boats and what makes them fast, what makes them safe, how best to protect the occupants and other health and safety issues.
This forum had a strong focus on fatigue and injury with papers on whole body vibration (WBV) and ways to measure the exposure. The result and present thinking is that operator training is most important. The helmsman must know the boat and how it will respond in different seaways and what speeds will provide the most comfort, to get the occupants to their destination fit to fight.
There is not one hull design or seat design that was going to be the ultimate, however it was considered that the integration of the operator’s knowledge and experience of the boat and seat design is the key to reducing injury. Better hulls, seats and training will of course give better results. Government departments in Australia are starting to realise that Naiad hulls and Ullman shock mitigating seats are looking after the occupants much better than before.
Seat design was well represented. This is currently a hot topic with a huge amount of research currently being done throughout Europe. Large amounts of data has been collected and digested with some good outcomes. Mainstream current thinking is:
Above 40 knots is considered high speed though many agencies are looking for much more, namely above 55 knots otherwise they are not able to catch some of the Pirates or smugglers. In Europe these ultra fast boats are long and thin and designed to sit on top of the waves which requires a keen eye and lots of experience to avoid the dangerous outcome of stuffing the bow and potentially deadly spinout.
Once again it's knowing the boats characteristics and lots of training, as some these boats are not so easy to drive. This was demonstrated out on the water where the demo boat operator would let a delegate take over the helm consequently the ride was not so smooth. No one was lost overboard but a couple were close and a little wet.
Generally the HSBO forum was a great experience and made us realise just how different our boats are compared to most of those. We offer more protection, smoother ride in rougher weather, not so aggressively fast but much easier to drive and forgiving. The European attitude seems to be dress the man not the boat-tough it out and have another cup of concrete.