Toppled trucks and crushed van on deck

HGV drivers on board a roro ferry that rolled heavily in rough seas en route to Scotland ignored international regulations and stayed in their cabs, putting themselves and rescuers at risk.

A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report highlighted the “industry-wide” issue of drivers remaining in their vehicles, after nine lorries toppled over on the P&O ferry as it sailed from Northern Ireland to Cairnryan on 18 December 2018.

The report also identified that the forecast weather conditions had not been sufficiently considered, the passage plan was not altered and freight vehicles were not lashed in accordance with guidance.

The ferry, European Causeway, encountered very high winds and rolled heavily, with the violent motion causing freight vehicles to shift and resulting in damage to 22 vehicles, some damaged severely.

At least six freight 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 MAIB found that the problem of drivers staying in their cabs had been known about for some time and was not unique to P&O Ferries or that route.

It was also apparent that ferry companies were not working collectively to reduce the problem by imposing sanctions on drivers, or the companies employing them.

Andrew Moll, MAIB chief inspector, said: “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.

“In addition to the work that they have already undertaken, we have recommended that P&O Ferries enhance their safety management system, to provide ship’s crew with better guidance concerning the stowage and lashing of freight vehicles in adverse weather conditions.”