Britain’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, has expressed concern regarding complacency among ferry crews in its report on the contact incident in which the UK-flagged ferry Isle of Arran, operated by CalMac Ferries Ltd, made contact with a linkspan at eight knots. A cuse of the accident was mechanical failure which led to loss of control of the starboard propeller pitch.
MAIB has recommended that the UK Chamber of Shipping encourage and facilitate the regular sharing of experiences and initiatives by UK ferry owners and operators, with particular emphasis on the prevention of complacency.
Says MAIB: “This is one of a number of recent accidents in the shipping industry as a whole in which complacency has undermined the effectiveness of ships’ crews. Preventing complacency on ferries, which are inevitably engaged on regular and familiar routes, is a challenge for all ferry owners and operators”.
It was the second incident involving Isle of Arran – On 30 March 2009, Isle of Arran grounded on a reef while departing Oban and suffered considerable damage. Another CalMac ferry Isle of Mull struck Lord of the Isles, another Caledonian
MacBrayne ferry, while manoeuvring in Oban harbour in 2004.
Two other ro-ro ferry incidents involved controlled pitch propellers, mention the MAIB report, involved the cross-Channel ro-ro passenger ferry P&OSL Aquitaine which struck No 7 berth in Calais at 7kts after a loss of control to her port CPP in April, 2000, and the ro-ro passenger-vehicle ferry Red Falcon which made heavy contact with the linkspan in Southampton.
In the case of the Isle of Arran the cause of the mechanical fault included the fitting of a manufacturer’s original spare component which was incorrect, a lack of technical information leading to incorrect adjustment, inadequate testing of the pitch control system, and the lack of a robust technical investigation following a previous failure. There was no test of the pitch control system before Isle of Arran was committed to the final approach into Kennacraig. As a consequence, the high speed of approach to the berth and the inability of the ship’s crew to quickly identify the cause of the loss of pitch control, made the resultant heavy contact with the linkspan inevitable.
The accident occurred after control of the starboard propeller pitch was lost due to a mechanical failure. Consequently, the starboard propeller remained at full ahead as the ferry made her approach to the berth. Although the port propeller was put to full astern, the starboard anchor was let go, and the starboard engine was shut down, this did not prevent Isle of Arran from landing heavily on the linkspan.
There were no injuries but both the vessel and the linkspan were damaged.