An urgent safety warning for lorry drivers not to stay in their cabs aboard ferries has been issued after one was trapped inside his vehicle in rough seas in the North Channel.
The move by the UK Department for Transport’s marine accident investigation branch (MAIB) follows nine lorries toppling over during the crossing between Larne and Cairnryan on 18 December.
At least six drivers remained in their cabs despite being instructed to leave the deck after driving on board P&O Ferries’ European Causeway.
No-one was hurt, but one of the drivers was trapped in his vehicle and had to be rescued by the emergency services when the ferry reach the Dumfries and Galloway port.
International regulations state passengers are not allowed to remain on ro-ro (roll-on/roll-off) decks as they could be in danger of asphyxiation from fire or as a result of systems used to tackle fires.
The MAIB’s investigation found the problem of lorry drivers remaining in their vehicles on ferries is “not unique to this route or to P&O”.
Its warning stated that ro-ro decks are a “hazardous and potentially life-threatening environment” and should only be occupied by professional seafarers.
The MAIB said drivers who remained on the deck might delay an emergency response to a fire, which could result in “catastrophic consequences to the whole vessel, its passengers and the environment”.
It recommended the Road Haulage Association (RHA) alerted members to the incident and encouraged them to take “robust action”.
Martin Reid, the RHA’s policy director for Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “We wait to hear the full findings of the enquiry but are more than happy to discuss any collaborative action with the ferry operators as part of our regular ongoing dialogue”.
Ian Gallagher, head of compliance information for the Freight Transport Association, which represents haulage firms, said: “We will be issuing an immediate reminder to members of the inherent dangers of ignoring advice designed to ensure the wellbeing of all drivers and shipping staff in this situation.
“We advise members to leave vehicle decks on ro-ro vessels, and fully support the recommendations from this report.
This example highlights why safety procedures are put in place and should be followed.
“The consequences could have been much worse.”
A spokesman for P&O Ferries said: “Working closely with the MAIB, we have contacted ferry operators in the UK who may be affected by the issue of drivers remaining in vehicle cabs on ro-ro decks.
”The aim is to encourage operators to contribute to a discussion
forum to collectively eliminate this problem.”