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Friday, January 17, 2020 

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB)'s accident investigation report into a cargo shift on board a ro-pax vessel during heavy weather in the Irish Sea North Channel has been published.

The full report contains details of what happened, the subsequent actions taken and the recommendation made. In summary, in December 2018, the ferry European Causeway rolled heavily in very rough seas and very high winds during its voyage from Larne, Northern Ireland to Cairnryan, Scotland. The violent motion caused several freight vehicles to shift and nine to topple over. This resulted in damage to 22 vehicles, some severe.

At least six freight vehicle drivers had remained in their cabs on the vehicle decks during the crossing and four were found in cabs of vehicles that had toppled over. One driver was trapped and had to be freed by the emergency services when the ship arrived in Cairnryan.

The report identifies the following safety issues:

  • the route being followed had not been adjusted sufficiently to mitigate the effects of the sea conditions and reduce the likelihood of severe rolling
  • the cargo lashings applied were insufficient for the forecasted weather conditions and the ship’s approved cargo securing manual provided limited guidance to ship’s staff
  • drivers remaining in their vehicles during the ferry’s passage, in contravention of international regulations and company policy, was not uncommon and is an industry-wide issue

Capt Andrew Moll, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, MAIB, said: "The MAIB investigation identified that the forecast weather conditions had not been sufficiently considered when setting the course of the ship, nor the application of lashings to freight vehicles loaded aboard. The investigation further highlighted the problem of freight drivers remaining in their cabs on the vehicle deck when the ferry is at sea. Drivers remaining in their vehicles not only put themselves at risk, they place at risk other passengers, and anyone who has to rescue them. Perhaps, most importantly, crucial emergency responses, such as to a fire, can be delayed until all passengers are accounted for.

"I have written to the senior management of short sea ferry companies around the United Kingdom to further highlight the dangers posed by freight drivers remaining on vehicle decks, and to encourage them to take a collective approach to eliminate this dangerous practice."

MAIB has recommended that P&O Ferries enhances its safety management system, to provide ship’s crew with better guidance concerning the stowage and lashing of freight vehicles in adverse weather conditions.

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