The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has today, Wednesday, September 21, published a report of its investigation into the grounding of the Italian registered roll on-roll off passenger ferry Sardinia Vera, in the approach channel to the port of Newhaven.
The grounding on January 11 brought to 13 the number of reportable accidents involving the two Transmanche Ferries vessels in the port of Newhaven in less than four years.
Ten of the accidents and incidents were groundings or near groundings, and three were collisions and contacts involving the other ferry, Dieppe. As a consequence, MAIB took the opportunity to probe more deeply the management of safety at Newhaven as it pertained to the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry operation.
The report said:
"Newhaven channel is prone to heavy silting. On 11 January 2005, bad weather over the preceding week had caused a significant increase in the rate of silting, especially on the eastern side of the channel.
"The harbourmaster had been unable to carry out either the routine monthly, or post bad weather hydrographic surveys due to defective surveying equipment, and consequently accurate depths in the channel were not known.
"No control measures were implemented to mitigate the risk of unknown depth, save that the master attempted to navigate in what he assessed to be the deeper side of the channel. In this, he was hampered by a lack of suitable fixed navigation aids at Newhaven.
"Despite having been accredited with implementing the Port Marine Safety Code, the investigation found that Newhaven Ports and Properties (NPP) was apparently unable or unwilling to ensure an adequate level of safety was maintained, as it pertained to the Transmanche Ferry operation in the port. Specifically, the board of NPP appeared not to have assimilated its statutory responsibility for safety of navigation in the port, and within the management structure the process for conducting risk assessments and implementing risk control measures was largely ineffective.
"Further, there was no evidence of an effective dialogue between Transmanche Ferries, the ship managers, and NPP, to assess the risks associated with operating a scheduled service of large ferries from the port. As a consequence, safe operating criteria had been defined piecemeal over the years, often following accidents and incidents."
The report makes a series of recommendations including suggesting a risk assessment takes place to ensure the suitability of vessels present and future operating in and out of the port on a scheduled programme, and to formulate robust minimum operating criteria for the individual vessels involved.