Warning after storm hit Cairnryan ferry passenger trapped in vehicle

A toppled lorry on the P&O European Causeway vessel after a storm last December. Picture courtesty of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch
A toppled lorry on the P&O European Causeway vessel after a storm last December. Picture courtesty of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch

A lorry driver on a storm hit Larne-Cairnryan ferry remained trapped in the cab of his toppled lorry until it docked in Scotland, marine accident investigators have said.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has also revealed that a total of six drivers ignored safety advice – refusing to leave the “hazardous” freight deck and join the other passengers in the public areas of the P&O European Causeway vessel.

The incident took place in December 2018 during what was described as “extreme weather conditions” of “strong winds and very rough seas”.

An MAIB report has flagged up a number of key safety lessons for those using the “hazardous and potentially life-threatening environment” of a roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ferry.

The latest MAIB safety bulletin states that while a ferry is at sea: the roll-on/roll-off decks should be occupied by “trained professional seafarers” only; that drivers who remain on the vehicle deck “pose a danger to themselves”; and those remaining in vehicles “could be in danger of asphyxiation by the fire, or as a result of the fire suppression systems that may be released by ship’s staff.”

The initial findings of the report state: “On 18 December 2018, European Causeway was on passage from Larne to Cairnryan when it encountered very strong winds and very rough seas, which caused the ship to roll heavily.

“As a result, 9 of the 40 freight vehicles on board toppled over, with several vehicles sustaining damage.”

It adds: “Four drivers were found in the freight vehicles that had toppled over, with one remaining trapped until he could be freed by the emergency services that were waiting in Cairnryan.

“Fortunately, nobody was hurt during the accident. The investigation has uncovered that the problem of 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 investigation is ongoing and a full MAIB report will be published in due course.

A spokesman for P&O Ferries said: “Working closely with the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, P&O Ferries has contacted ferry operators in the United Kingdom who may be affected by the issue of drivers

remaining in vehicle cabs on ro-ro decks. The aim is to encourage operators to contribute to a discussion forum to collectively eliminate this problem.”