Nautilus has backed a call from the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) for urgent action to stop lorry drivers remaining in their cabs onboard ferries.
The call comes after evidence uncovered by the MAIB during an investigation into an incident in which nine lorries toppled over when the P&O ferry European Causeway encountered heavy weather during a crossing between Larne and Cairnryan in December 2018.
The MAIB said it had found that at least six drivers had remained in their cabs and four were found in the vehicles that had toppled over. One was trapped in his vehicle and had to be rescued by the emergency services when the ferry arrived in Cairnryan.
The MAIB said its investigation had found that 'the problem of lorry drivers remaining in their vehicle cabs on the ro-ro deck while ferries are on passage is not unique to this route or to P&O'.
The safety bulletin points out that ro-ro decks are 'a hazardous and potentially life-threatening environment' and that drivers who remain in their cabs 'pose a danger to themselves, and can cause a delay to the emergency response, particularly in the event of a fire'.
The MAIB said it wanted ferry companies to collaborate on a 'cohesive and cooperative approach to resolve this urgent safety issue' and it has also urged the Road Haulage Association to encourage its members to take 'robust action' to eliminate the problem.
Nautilus national ferry organiser Micky Smyth commented: 'This has been a very long-standing problem across the entire sector and it needs to be eradicated.
'With work pressures, time constraints and current crewing levels, there is only so much that crews can do to enforce the rules and the authorities need to take appropriate action against lorry drivers who flout them,' he added. 'The MAIB recommendations are welcome, and we hope that they result in effective measures.'