22nd July 2019

The importance of kill cords


A kill cord is a coiled cable, connected at one end to the vessel’s engine or dashboard, and at the other end, to the helmsman. Its purpose is to shut down the engine if the cord were to become detached, for example, if the helmsman were to be thrown overboard or to lose their footing. This decreases the likelihood of the vessel causing any injury or property damage by being out of control.

Sadly, not using a kill cord can lead to devastating consequences. For example, a lack of use led to the tragic deaths of father and daughter Nick and Emily Milligan in Padstow in 2013, when their runaway RIB hit them and seriously injured four other members of the family*.

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has a number of recommendations regarding the use of kill cords**:

  • The kill cord should be attached around your leg. It should not foul the steering or gear controls.
  • Don’t extend the length of the kill cord provided by the manufacturer of the engine.
  • Always check your kill cord works at the start of each day or session, and check it regularly for signs of wear.
  • When replacing kill cords, purchase a good quality lanyard with a strengthening cord through the middle.
  • Do not leave kill cords out in the elements. Extremes of temperature and UV light will harm the lanyard over time.
  • If your lanyard has a fabric outer sheath but has lost its spiral tension, it is advisable to replace it. It’s possible that the inner strengthening cord may be damaged.
  • Keep a spare kill cord on board.

It’s worth noting that incorrect use or lack of an engine cut out device has important insurance implications. Insurers will only provide insurance under your policy if certain general conditions are met – one of these is that ‘you must maintain in an efficient working order any engine cut out device fitted to your craft and use it correctly at all times whilst our craft is underway’.

Call the Euromarine team on 01843 603345 for more information.


*Padstow speedboat crash: 'Kill cord' key to inquiry -

**Summary of RYA advice and recommendations - https://www.rya.org.uk/knowledge-advice/safe-boating/look-after-yourself/Pages/kill-cord.aspx