Cargo shift and damage to vehicles onboard P&O ro-ro passenger ferry European Causeway could have been avoided if forecast weather conditions had been considered the when setting the ship’s course, according to the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).
European Causeway rolled over by 30 degrees in very rough seas and high winds during its Irish Sea crossing from Larne to Cairnryan in December 2018, causing several freight vehicles to shift or topple over and resulting in damage to 22 vehicles.
At least six drivers had remained in their cabs during the crossing in contravention of international regulations and company policy. Of the nine vehicles that toppled over, four drivers were found in their cab and one trapped driver had to be freed by emergency services when the ship reached Cairnryan.
If the route had been adjusted sufficiently to mitigate the effects of the sea conditions, the likelihood of severe rolling would have been reduced, it was found.
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.
The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to UK short sea ferry companies, 'further highlighting the dangers posed by freight drivers remaining on vehicle decks, and to encourage them to take a collective approach to eliminate this dangerous practice.'
He recommended that P&O Ferries enhance its safety management system and provide crews with better guidance concerning the stowage and lashing of freight vehicles in adverse weather conditions.