CHIRP has received three reports expressing concern over the overall safety of passengers on UK registered ferries.
A passenger expressed concern over the procedures for mustering passengers and their evacuation from a local ferry. The MCA was contacted and they advised, UK ferries before entering into service must demonstrate the capability to conduct mass evacuation of passengers within prescribed time limits. MCA staff confirmed the reported ship had been regularly audited and that all the safety regulations have been met.
The ferry was engaged on a private charter. On departure, the master advised through the public address system, passengers should listen carefully to the following important safety announcement. Thereafter nothing happened. Five passengers mentioned they did not hear an announcement. The crew had not advised the master that the taped message had not worked. A crew member was requested to go the bridge and inform the master, thereafter the taped message was immediately played.
Lessons Learned: If the master cannot hear the public announcement taped message on the bridge, then a crew member should provide the master with positive confirmation that these messages have been played and heard in the public areas.
A passenger highlighted the indoor corridors were tiny, pitch dark at night with no emergency lights fitted. Safety notices were posted in cabins and supported by signs to assembly stations, but safety precautions were not announced to passengers before sailing.
CHIRP contacted the ferry operator who requested their thanks be conveyed to the reporter for raising the concerns. The ferry operator then addressed each observation, replying:
• Safety documentation and information media are constantly reviewed in order to ensure their validity, they are subject to external scrutiny by the authorities.
• The Classification Society ensures that the make-up of evacuation routes is in line with SOLAS / National regulation requirements and so, whilst one might take a subjective view about the “narrowness” of companionways on board our vessels, it rests with the authorities to determine objectively and within agreed norms whether any issues arise, bearing in mind evacuation drills form a major element of annual inspections.
• Security officers make regular tours of the vessel whilst it is at sea in order to ensure that all is well. In an emergency situation, ships crew are trained to tour accommodation areas in order to ensure not only that all passengers are aware that a situation exists but also to enable, if necessary, safe and speedy transit to lifeboat decks
• With regard to the visibility of exit routes, direction signs are mandatory and must conform to internationally recognised standards and this is without exception on board our ships.
• Evacuation plans must be approved by the classification society in order to verify compliance with SOLAS/National regulation and this is evidently the case for all our vessels; evacuation systems and procedures are tested regularly and vigorously.
• With regards to information films, the regulations do not require this but we are currently in the process of developing a sophisticated video information system and had wished to have a finalised version of the film before responding to CHIRP. We are actively increasing the number of screens on board our vessels, largely in response to Division 190 regulations.
• Since receiving your note, a superintendent has travelled many times on our vessels and we can assure you that safety announcements on departure are made systematically and clearly; the messages contained therein are replicated throughout the ship and in cabins by static signs.
• Emergency lighting in cabins already exists and is considered more than adequate.
• Assembly points are clearly marked and entirely meet our obligations.
These reports highlight concern over whether existing regulations are appropriate for coastal ferries and the larger passenger ships being built today and the public’s greater aversion to risk.
The company has replied in an appropriate manner based on current practice and while fully compliant with current regulations, they might consider what additional measures can be put in place to improve safety in addition to the safety video they are preparing. International regulations are a minimum consensus that could be improved upon for a specific type or service of vessel. The company could seek independent advice to see what other cost effective measures can be implemented to enhance current safety measures.
Should there be a new set of regulations for passenger ships? CHIRP believes this is a valid question and can share data and provide support for future work as it evolves. CHIRP is not a lobbying organisation but is very pleased to note there are other more appropriate organisations already actively engaged on this subject. For example: The Nautical Institute are writing papers and articles on concerns relating to passenger ships, e.g. the existing regulations on mass evacuation from ships do not take full account of the size and mobility of passengers, the narrow corridors inside and outside the accommodation and access to enclosed lifeboats.
The International Maritime Rescue Federation has held three mass evacuation conferences in Gothenburg in the last 3 years.
IMO is reviewing whether the Passenger ship regulations are fit for purpose in this day and age and the IMO Secretary General stated at the ICS Annual Conference the intention to include domestic passenger ferries in their 2015 agenda.
CHIRP has been informed a conference/ seminar on the subject of passenger ship safety will most likely be hosted in the UK in 2015.