MAIB: European Causeway’s Severe Rolling Blamed on Improper Consideration of Weather Forecast

The cargo shift and damage to vehicles on board the P&O’s ferry European Causeway in December 2018 could have been avoided if the crew had considered the forecast weather conditions when setting the course of the ship, MAIB investigation shows.

The ro-ro passenger ferry 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 damaged severely, the investigation findings show.

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 accident occurred because the ferry rolled over 30° in storm conditions and its cargo had not been adequately secured.

The MAIB investigation found that if the route had been adjusted sufficiently to mitigate the effects of the sea conditions the likelihood of severe rolling would have been reduced.

Furthermore, 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.

Finally, 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.

“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,” the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, Andrew Moll, said.

“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 Ltd 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.”