On 18 December 2018, European Causeway was on passage from Larne to Cairnryan when it encountered very strong winds and very rough seas, which caused the ship to roll heavily. As a result, 9 of the 40 freight vehicles on board toppled over, with several vehicles sustaining damage. The MAIB investigation has found that at least six drivers had remained in their freight vehicle cabs during the crossing despite being instructed by the ship’s crew to vacate the ro-ro deck after they had parked their vehicles.
Four drivers were found in the freight vehicles that had toppled over, with one remaining trapped until he could be freed by the emergency services that were waiting in Cairnryan. Fortunately, nobody was hurt during the accident. The investigation has uncovered that the problem of drivers remaining in their vehicle cabs on the ro-ro deck while ferries are on passage is not unique to this route or to P&O.
A ferry’s ro-ro deck is a hazardous and potentially life-threatening environment. While a ferry is at sea, the ro-ro decks should be occupied by only trained professional seafarers who are required to undertake safety and security patrols.
Drivers who remain on the vehicle deck of ro-ro ferries pose a danger to themselves, and can cause a delay to the emergency response, particularly in the event of a fire. Any delay to the activation of fire suppression systems on the vehicle deck due to the need to undertake a muster and headcount of all persons on board could have catastrophic consequences to the whole vessel, its passengers and the environment.
Furthermore, drivers who have remained in their vehicle cabs could be in danger of asphyxiation by the fire, or as a result of the fire suppression systems that may be released by ship’s staff.
All companies operating ferries to the United Kingdom are strongly encouraged to engage positively with this safety initiative, to work across the industry to develop a cohesive and cooperative approach to resolve this urgent safety issue.
Please see the information document below: