P&O Larne ferry ranked worst inspectors had seen in over 1,200 cases when it came to sheer number of problems

The News Letter can reveal that following the mass firing of P&O’s UK crews last month, inspectors uncovered no fewer than 31 problems on a Larne-based ferry.

By Adam Kula
Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 4:31 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 8:05 am

The extraordinary findings are contained in a report into the condition of the ‘European Causeway’, one of a number of roll-on-roll-off (RO-RO) ships operated by P&O Ferries.

Incredibly, the Scotland-to-Northern Ireland vessel had the worst report of any passenger ferry inspected in the last three years within the ‘Paris MOU’ zone – the trans-Atlantic inspection area to which the UK belongs – in terms of the sheer number of flaws uncovered.

To put that into some perspective, there have been over 1,200 such ferry inspections in that time.

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The P&O Ferries operated European Causeway vessel in dock at the Port of Larne, Co Antrim, where it had been detained by authorities for being "unfit to sail"

The ship hit the headlines late last month after it was impounded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

That decision followed the blanket sacking of an estimated 800 UK seafarers on March 17, and the firm’s effort to replace them with cheaper foreign labour.

After the problems were raised and addressed, MCA inspectors released the ship last Friday and it has now resumed sailing.

P&O Ferries told the News Letter “the safety of our passengers and crew is our foremost priority” and that “any suggestion that it is being compromised in any way is categorically false”.

AN INTERNATIONAL DATABASE OF INSPECTIONS:

Paris MOU stands for ‘Paris Memorandum of Understanding’.

It is a kind of maritime alliance comprised of the shipping authorities in 26 European nations (including the UK), plus Canada.

Its website is basically a vast database of tens of thousands of reports into everything from oil tankers to fishing boats.

It allows people to search all inspections since April 2019.

During that time there have been some 1,210 inspections of 348 different RO-RO passenger ferries, leading to vessels being detained on 30 occasions.

When it comes to the European Causeway, the database reveals that it racked up 31 “deficiencies” during its inspection – which began eight days after the mass sackings, and continued up until April 8, when the ship was released from its detention.

That is the highest number of deficiencies recorded across all of the 1,210 inspections which have taken place over the past three years.

The next highest was 29 deficiencies, uncovered onboard a Nigerian-flagged ferry called MV Jireh during a check at a UK port in November 2019.

WHAT ARE THE 31 FLAWS?

The inspection report itself does not go into much detail about the precise nature of the problems, but here is what it does reveal:

> Out of the 31 deficiencies found on the European Causeway (a 22-year-old ferry flying the flag of the Bahamas), seven were grave enough to impound the ship.

> There were nine deficiencies in fire safety;

> Eight fell under the heading “certificate & documentation”, including missing certificates for crew and survival/rescue craft;

> Four deficiencies under the heading of “labour conditions”;

> Two concerning “life-saving appliances” – specifically that “launching arrangements for survival craft” were “not as required”, and that the “marine evacuation system” was “not properly maintained”;

> One deficiency relating to “water/weathertight conditions”;

> One concerning “propulsion and auxiliary machinery” including “gauges, thermometers etc” which were “not properly maintained”;

> One under “emergency systems”, saying the “muster list” was incomplete;

> One under the heading “radio communications” saying there was a “lack of familiarity” with equipment;

> One under “structural conditions”, saying “closing devices/watertight doors” were “not as required”;

> One marked “safety of navigation”;

> One listed as “ISM”;

> And one listed just as “other”.

P&O SAYS CHECKS HAVE GOT TOUGHER:

P&O Ferries said in a statement: “It is clear that – following interventions by ministers and MPs – the MCA inspections have reached an unprecedented level of rigour.

“We welcome this additional scrutiny and would reiterate that the safety of our passengers and crew is our foremost priority.

“Any suggestion that it is being compromised in any way is categorically false and we look forward to all of our ships welcoming tourist passengers and freight customers again as soon as all mandatory safety tests have been passed.”

The MCA told the News Letter: “If a vessel is detained, it remains that way until all the problems that led to that detention are put right.

“Then on being invited to reinspect, the MCA has to be satisfied not only that they have been put right but that also the vessel in question is safe to put to sea.”

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