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colin

Irish Ferries: Bad weather, bad decisions? Epsilon - Vissentini?

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I wonder if the effect of Stena sailing that night on Irish Ferries was a "if they are going then so shall we" attitude but sadly without knowledge that Stena were going to shelter off the Devon coast?

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A courteous sharing of information maybe, but there were plenty of other ships out there that night as well, other than ferries, that would have had their cargo fully secured and lashed down. But it is surely inconceivable that a captain of a ship would base a sail-or-not-sail decision on whether or not a rival ship sailed. That would be shocking seamanship if so. Ok, it was already shocking seamanship, but a decision based on a belief it was safe to sail is one thing, a decision just to copy another ship is something else. I cannot believe that was in the decision-making, and if it was the responsible master should have his ticket removed.

 

On the subject of lashing of cargo, there's one aspect of this that I have not seen discussed yet and that it to what extent the cars and lorries etc were lashed to the vehicle deck. We must all have seen the loading crew doing this on sailings we've been on where the conditions are expected to be a bit lively, but the question is begged as to whether that happened on this sailing. If it did - then conditions were clearly so violent that the lashings failed. If it didn't - why the heck not? Another aspect of negligent seamanship if so. Either way - another reason why this incident needs to be formally investigated by either the MAIB or its equivalent in either Ireland or France.

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Interesting, thanks cva. So there was clearly at least some attempt to lash at least some of the load. It's still an interesting angle of discussion though, because there is still the question of was it done properly and to all vehicles. If it was, then think about this. Do you all remember the grounding of Riverdance on Blackpool Beach? The pictures from that ship in the days after the grounding showed the ship on its side...with all the lorries on the upper vehicle deck still securely lashed in position and held to the deck with those fixings. That's how strong these fixings are. So, IF the cargo on Epsilon was all properly lashed down by chains that were in full working order, then what sort of conditions must this ship have experienced for not just some but for so many of those lashings to fail given that they are capable of holding a fully-laden articulated lorry to a deck that is vertical? Food for thought.

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Another report from a passenger on-board - see final comment - looks like it was an IF decision not the Captains...

 

 

"Being a sailor myself I was surprised we actually left Cherbourg in the first place as the weather was quite bad and the sea was very rough," said *******.

Thousands of euro of damage was caused to cars and cargo onboard an Irish Ferries ship after it encountered Storm Imogen.

The boat was hit by winds of a constant 60–knots with gusts of 105–knots at times.

******* said that himself and his wife could not believe that the boat set sail and said they experienced "a very bad night" in their cabin on Sunday night before rising to the lounge area the following morning for breakfast.

"All of a sudden, great waves occurred and people's tables [ones which weren't nailed down] were upended and plates and food went crashing across the lounge," he said.

"From where we were thrown, we could hear the pots and plates in the kitchen crashing about. "

 

The UK-based couple retired to their cabin as they imagined that their passage would be more comfortable below amid the storm.

However, ******* and his wife suffered severe bruising that left them requiring hospital attention as a result of the rocking vessel.

"I was sitting on a chair holding on to the table and all of the sudden I found myself on the floor. I was thrown into the bathroom, breaking the door. I couldn't get up and the boat was rocking so much.

"My wife was stuck in the toilet as she couldn't move from where she was. I eventually managed to get up, deciding then that it may be safer to get up to the lounge area."

****** told independent.ie that the passengers were given no instruction as to how to act or where to remain during this period. He said that the scene when the pair entered the lounge looked like chaos.

"We were in the lounge and the crew had replaced the tables [which had been knocked down]. All of a sudden we were hit again by the waves and one man was pinned down by the tables.

Handbags and mobile phones were flying everywhere.

***** said a couple from Mayo pulled himself and his wife up to sit on a bench seat and "there we stayed for ten hours with our legs braced against a fixed table pole".

At the end of the arduous journey, the captain attempted to dock at the Irish shoreline but w as unable to do so initially

"The weather was still rough and he began to turn in circles. At every turn, I thought the boat was going to capsize."

"The captain displayed incredible seaman ship to save that boat.

"I don't want the captain to be the scapegoat as he came across on the tannoy with every instruction."

 

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Very interesting, and as suspected, thanks kgst. Sounds horrendous.

 

Just a quick picture to illustrate the point about the deck lashings from the Riverdance grounding. Here is a picture from the morning after the grounding, not quite on her side yet but not far off....and you can clearly see that whilst the cargo inside the lorries escaped through the lorry sides, the lorries themselves are securely held in position.

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Surprising how little there is about this on the Irish ferries forum and a lot of what is on there is supporting or at least not attacking the Captain. There are several comments about the forecast not being clear etc but I think everyone else knew the forecast, BF cancelling sailings and Stena running straight for shelter.

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This is an interesting read: http://www.rte.ie/news/2016/0211/767303-irish-ferries/

 

Several discussion points to come out of that, I'm sure, when everyone has read it.

 

 

Of course it depends on who you believe but the article highlighted by Gareth does not match the reports of IF saying that they are trying to dodge responsibility....insurers are assessing the damage/liability and cars have been hired for those who cars were damaged.

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Just had a quick read through, there's no mention of the Stena Horizon leaving before the Epsilon and taking shelter in Torbay, surely that would put the Masters decision in context.

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It strikes me as a very dry factual report, with much unsaid. 

The timeline shows the senior master on watch when the Epsilion set sail at 1600 and handing over to the junior master at 1900. But we don't know what instructions he gave at the time of handover - did he say Get this ship back home, or did he say Use your judgement and shelter if things look rough.  Much perhaps depended on the degree of decision making the one gave the other. 

But I am not a prefessional sailor and must await their comments.

 

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"The senior Master stated that he has never been put under any pressure by The Company to prosecute a sailing."

Personally, I have difficulty believing the above statement, (which is contained in the MCIB's report) for the following reasons:

1) Nine hours before the scheduled departure from Cherbourg the night-time duty master was of the view that conditions were not suitable for sailing.
2) References in the report to the stale "Nowcasting" weather forecasts.  ( I would be looking at multiple weather forecasts when faced with a storm).  It's nearly as if the Senior Master is saying, "oh, the weather forecast was out of date, that's a shame". 
3) The decision to leave Cherbourg in the first place.
4) The decision to round Land's End instead of seeking shelter along the south coast of Devon and/or Cornwall.

My belief is that the Senior Master was determined to get Epsilon to Dublin on schedule and the most obvious reason for such determination would be pressure from company management.

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For me here are some more takeaways from the report.

1) 12 people injured, 10 passengers, 2 crew.
2) 59 cars, vans, caravans were on board.  And 59 cars, vans, and caravans were damaged.  In other words, every single car was damaged.  Plus the majority of the freight units.
3) "During turn three in Barnstaple Bay, the vessel heeled from port to approximately 33° to starboard through amplitude of approximately 45° in 12 seconds. It was at the end of this roll, whilst heeled to approximately 33°, that the cargo shift occurred".   In my opinion, this was nearly a far worse tragedy in that it appears that Epsilon wasn't far off capsizing. 

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Clearly it was the shift in cargo that almost caused the vessel to capsize shifting the balance in weight and thus destabilising her....scary stuff indeed.

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