Cognitive overload, lack of crew communications led to 2018 ferry collision with yacht off Isle of Wight, MAIB report finds

Red Falcon in 2017 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Djm-leighpark)

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) recently released its investigation report into the October 21, 2018 collision between a Ro-Pax ferry and a moored yacht near the Isle of Wight, an incident that resulted in the latter vessel being sunk after suffering heavy damage.

At 08:11 on October 21, 2018, while navigating in severely reduced visibility in Cowes Harbour, Mr Ian Drummond, the master of the Red Funnel ferry Red Falcon, lost orientation when his vessel swung out of control, departed the navigable channel, and was spun around through 220 degrees.

In his confusion, the master drove the ferry in the wrong direction resulting in a collision with the moored yacht Greylag, which was sunk on its mooring as a result. The ferry then ran aground at the entrance to Cowes Harbour.

No injuries were reported from the incident.

The MAIB conducted an investigation and discovered the following safety issues:

  • Red Falcon‘s master became fixated upon the information displayed on his electronic chart and operating engine controls, ignored information displayed on other electronic equipment, and became cognitively overloaded due to high stress.
  • The ferry’s bridge team became disengaged from the operation due to a lack of clear communications and emergency scenario training.
  • The hazard to people sleeping on yachts in Cowes Harbour had not been sufficiently mitigated within risk assessments.

Red Funnel has been recommended to conduct regular assessment of ship-handling capabilities including pilotage by instruments alone, and to review the shipboard method of determining orientation displayed on the ship’s electronic charting system.

The Cowes Harbour Commission and the Cowes Yacht Haven have been recommended to review their risk assessments for collision between a commercial vessel and raft of yachts moored at their marinas detailing mitigating measures that are within their control to implement.

Mr Drummond had been charged in connection with an earlier incident also involving Red Falcon on September 29, 2018, wherein the ferry collided with a yacht, causing the latter to sink. The master was eventually acquitted of the offence after the Southampton Magistrates Court determined that he had exerted the necessary effort to maintain a proper lookout and was therefore not to blame for the collision.

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