Car deck on ferry collapses

Car deck on ferry collapses

The collapse of the mezzanine car deck on the Wightlink St Helen as it was being lowered is deeply worrying. Passenger safety is of paramount importance and if the investigation by the MCA accident investigation team finds structural failure this has significant implications for the replacement programme which Mcquarie the owners of Wightlink appear to have put on hold. The St Helen is one of the oldest ferries crossing the Solent, entering service in 1984. The St Cecilia followed in 1987, then the St Faith in 1990 and the St Clare in 2001. Red Funnel’s fleet entered service in 1994 and 1996.

It is with great relief that we note that there have been no fatalities.

We understand that despite the MCA inspection in May, a similar failure has occurred on the St Helen twice before recently but was not highlighted because there was no damage to vehicles and/or people. We hope that this information which came from two members of the incident teams is not correct but we would welcome any information to inform everyone on what is after all a very serious potential threat to life.

When the MAIB report emerges we will publish it and we will now gather more information on safety and reliability issues.

Passenger safety is of course taken extremely seriously by all our ferry operators and we must avoid any hasty conclusions. But the BFC will be asking some in depth questions about the whole structural integrity of these older ferries and urging Wightlink to be more open about it plans for replacement. We are still waiting to hear from Wightlink regarding its retrofitting programme for its ferries to ensure that they are compliant with the incoming Emissions standards to be in force on January 1st 2015.

(Picture courtesy of Richard Chantler)

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