It’s time to to stop boozed-up boaters becoming deadly hazards in the face of ineffective control of alcohol-limits says Britain’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB in its report on the collision between the privately owned rigid-hulled inflatable Morfil and the passenger ferry Sun Clipper on the Thames on 1 June 2011, near Blackfriars Bridge. The Morfil’s coxswain was under the influence of alcohol.
Says MAIB: “The introduction of an alcohol limit for persons in charge of pleasure vessels was first recommended in The Hayes Report almost 20 years ago. Although the provision for such a limit was made in the Railways and Transport Safety Act, 2003, the pertinent subsections of the Act have yet to be commenced. The use of byelaws by harbour authorities to deter alcohol consumption on pleasure vessels is largely ineffective”.
The RIB’s two occupants were uninjured but at least 45 fatalities have resulted from accidents to pleasure vessels over the last 6 years in which alcohol has been a contributory factor.
The investigation identified several factors contributing to this accident, including:
• Morfil’s coxswain was under the influence of alcohol and did not take action to avoid Sun Clipper until between 1 and 2 seconds before the collision.
• The action taken by Sun Clipper’s master to avoid the collision was limited by the proximity of the road bridge and mooring buoys.
• Refurbishment works under the Blackfriars Road Bridge resulted in both vessels using the same bridge arch and their skippers not being able to see each other until about 10 seconds before the collision.
• Morfil’s speed was significantly greater than the 12 knot limit recommended by the Port of London Authority.
• Morfil’s coxswain had limited knowledge and experience of navigating on the River Thames and was unaware of, or ignored, the local regulations and advice.
A recommendation has been made to the Department for Transport aimed at expediting the enactment of a national alcohol limit to persons in charge of pleasure vessels. A recommendation has also been made to the Port of London Authority designed to further enhance the safety of all water users on the River Thames.