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Reporting and investigating watercraft accidents in a complete and timely manner is extremely important. This chapter gives procedures to investigate watercraft accidents and to write reports according to AR 385-40.

This chapter covers watercraft under DA jurisdiction that are--

  • Used in LOTS operations, CHI waterways, and ocean operations.

  • Identified in AR 56-9, Table 1-1.

  • Operated and exclusively controlled or directed by the Army. This includes watercraft furnished by a contractor or another government agency when operated by Army watercraft personnel.

  • Lent or leased to non-Army organizations for modification, maintenance, repair, test, contractor, research, or development projects for the Army.

  • Under test by Army agencies responsible for research, development, and testing of equipment.

  • Under operational control of a contractor.

This chapter does not negate the vessel master's responsibility to report any applicable watercraft accident, injury, or death involving commercial watercraft or property to the USCG.


A watercraft accident is an unplanned event or series of events that results in one or more of the following:

  • Accidents occurring while loading, off-loading, or receiving services at dockside.

  • Damage to Army property (including government-furnished material, government property, or government-furnished equipment provided to a contractor).

  • Accidents occurring during amphibious or on-shore warfare training.

  • Fatal or nonfatal injury to military personnel on or off duty.

  • Fatal or nonfatal injury to on-duty Army civilian personnel, including nonappropriated fund employees and foreign nationals employed by the Army, incurred during performance of duties while in a work-compensable status.

  • Fatal or nonfatal occupational injury or illness to Army military personnel, Army civilian employees, nonappropriated fund employees, or foreign nationals employed by the Army.

  • Fatal or nonfatal injury or illness to non-Army personnel or damage to non-Army property.

Watercraft accidents do not include accidents that are reportable under other major categories in AR 385-40; for example, aircraft, missile, or chemical agent accidents.


Watercraft accidents are investigated and reported to save personnel and equipment by identifying problem areas (deficiencies) as early as possible. Thus changes, corrections, and countermeasures can be developed and implemented before more people are hurt or killed or equipment is damaged, destroyed, or lost.

If accidents are not reported, problems will go undetected. People will continue to be injured and equipment damaged.

If a problem is never reported, the responsible person will not know there is a problem. Nothing will be done to fix it, and people will continue to suffer.


All watercraft accidents must be reported, regardless of class, to the local activity or installation safety office. However, only certain accidents require completion and submission of DA Form 285 (US Army Accident Report). These recordable accidents include Classes A, B, C, and D accidents (see AR 385-40 for details).

The Army classifies accidents by severity of injury and property damage. These classes (A through D) are used to determine the appropriate investigative and reporting procedures.

A Class A accident has a total cost of reportable damage of $1,000,000 or more; destroys an Army aircraft, watercraft, missile, or spacecraft; or has an occupational illness that results in a fatality or permanent total disability.

A Class B accident has a total cost of reportable property damage of $200,000 or more, but less than $1,000,000; an injury and/or occupational illness that results in permanent partial disability, or five or more people hospitalized as inpatients.

A Class C accident has a total cost of property damage of $10,000 or more, but less than $200,000; a nonfatal injury that causes any loss of time from work beyond the day or shift on which it occurred; or a nonfatal illness or disability that causes loss of time from work or disability at any time (lost time case).

A Class D accident has a cost of property damage of $2,000 or more, but less than $10,000; or a nonfatal injury that does not meet the criteria of a Class C accident (no time was lost or time lost was restricted to the day or shift on which the injury occurred).

NOTE: Property damage is defined as the cost to repair or replace. Property damage costs are separated from personnel injury/ illness costs for classifying A through C accidents.


If an Army watercraft is involved in an accident, the vessel master/operator must report the accident as soon as possible in accordance with AR 385-40. This is before and in addition to a later detailed DA Form 285 report

For accidents that require a board investigation, see AR 385-40. For watercraft accidents that require a DA Form 285, the commander or supervisor directly responsible for the operation, materiel, or people involved in the accident will make sure that --

  • An investigation is performed to obtain the facts and circumstances of the accident for accident prevention purposes only (AR 385- 40).

  • Evidence is preserved per AR 385-40.

  • DA Form 285 is completed according to instructions on the form. The form must be forwarded through the installation safety office to the Army Safety Center for recording in the Army Safety Management Information System (ASMIS) within 30 days of the accident. Army national guard reports will be sent to the state safety office.


Watercraft accidents must be reported on DA Form 285. The report is prepared according to AR 385-40.

NOTE: This report is intended only for accident prevention purposes and will not be used for administrative or disciplinary actions within the DOD.

In addition to the DA Form 285 report, watercraft accidents involving grounding that creates a hazard to navigation or watercraft safety or any occurrence that affects the watercraft's seaworthiness or fitness for service (including, but not limited to fire, flooding, or damage to fixed fire extinguishing systems, life saving equipment, or bilge pumping systems) will be reported to the Transportation Branch Marine Safety Office, ATTN: ATZF-CSS, Fort Eustis, VA 23604-5113 within 24 hours.

The following additional information will be included with the DA Form 285 as an enclosure:

  • Time and place of commencement of voyage and destination.

  • Direction and force of current.

  • Direction and force of wind.

  • Visibility in yards.

  • Tide and sea conditions.

  • Name of person in charge of navigation and names of people on the bridge.

  • Name and rank of lookout and where stationed.

  • Time when bridge personnel and lookouts were posted on duty.

  • Course and speed of watercraft.

  • Number of passengers and crew on board.

  • Names of passengers and crew.

  • Copies of all pertinent log entries.

  • List of the witnesses names and addresses.

  • Date steering gear and controls were last tested.

  • Date and place where compasses were last adjusted and the deviation, if any, at the time of the accident.

  • Statement of any outside assistance received.

  • Diagrams of damage and pertinent documents.

  • Photos of damage.

  • Any other details not covered above.


A collateral investigation is required in many cases for Class A, B, or C accidents to record and preserve the facts for litigation, claims, and disciplinary and administrative actions. These investigations are conducted in accordance with AR 15-6 and the procedures in DA Pamphlet 385-95. All fatal accidents require a collateral investigation. Those accidents that generate a high degree of public interest or are likely to result in litigation for or against the government also require a collateral investigation.

NOTE: Personnel investigating an accident under AR 385-40 will not be involved in tracking, handling, or reviewing collateral investigations nor will they be involved in establishing collateral investigation procedures.

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