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Action sought on ‘industry-wide’ problem of lorry drivers staying in cabs at sea

Credit: MAIB

An investigation has identified an “industry-wide” issue of lorry drivers ignoring international regulations and putting lives at risk by staying in their cabs at sea.

The probe was sparked after nine HGVs toppled over and 22 vehicles were damaged during high winds on board the P&O European Causeway service between Larne, Northern Ireland, and Cairnryan, Scotland, on December 18 2018.

At least six drivers had remained in their cabs on the vehicle decks during the crossing, four were in vehicles that had overturned and one had to be freed by the emergency services at the Dumfries and Galloway port.

An investigation conducted by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) into the incident concluded:

  • The route being followed had not been adjusted sufficiently to mitigate the effects of the sea conditions and reduce the likelihood of severe rolling.
  • 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.
  • 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.
A crushed car is lifted off the European Causeway ferry. Credit: PA

Andrew Moll, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, MAIB says: “The MAIB investigation identified that the forecast weather conditions had not been sufficiently considered when setting the course of the ship, nor when applying lashings to freight vehicles loaded aboard.

"The investigation further highlighted the problem of freight drivers remaining in their cabs on the vehicle deck when the ferry is at sea. Drivers remaining in their vehicles not only put themselves at risk, but they also place at risk other passengers and anyone who may have 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 the ferry companies operating 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.”