In February 2013, the passenger ferry Finnarrow berthed in Holyhead with her port fin stabiliser still deployed, which subsequently punctured the hull and led to the flooding of the pump room. Following the incident, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published a report in the incident that raises concerns over failures in bridge procedures and emergency preparedness, both of which are no strangers to the large-yacht industry.

The report confirms that the accident occurred because the port fin stabiliser was left deployed during Finnarrow’s final approach to the berth. “The bridge procedures in place for conducting end of passage and pre-arrival checks were ineffective, resulting in several potential defense opportunities being missed to ensure the fin stabilisers were housed,” the MAIB explains. “The first defense opportunity was the con and watch handovers between the second officer, master and chief officer, where good practice would have required the status of the fin stabilisers to be reported. Although the second officer informed the day master that the port fin stabiliser was deployed, she did not pass this information to the chief officer. Secondly, a tick box on the voyage checklist to confirm that the fin stabilisers were housed, was not completed,” the report continues. This failed to act as a prompt to either the day master or chief officer to check that the fin stabilisers were housed.”

Credit: Alexis Andrews

The report goes on to analyse the emergency response to the accident from the engineers on board. “Although the flooding that resulted from the consequential hull damage was restricted largely to the pump room,” the report explains. “The rate and extent of flooding might have been reduced if better damage control actions had taken place. While Finnarrow’s bilge pumping system had some level of redundancy, as required by SOLAS, the crew’s response to the flooding could have been more effective. The crew were insufficiently familiar with the vessel’s equipment, and lack of effective flooding drills hampered the damage control effort.”

"The rate and extent of flooding might have been reduced if better damage control actions had taken place."

Speaking to Adrian McCourt, managing director of Watkins Superyachts, about the incident, he highlighted that it holds particular relevance to the superyacht industry. “There can be no doubt that even with doubled positions amongst officers on a busy schedule, fatigue and routine complacency were allowed to occur,” he says. “Those of us who fly regularly on short haul would be alarmed to feel that handovers were ineffective due to repetition. Simply put, the stabilizer status wasn’t mentioned; a ‘Go-No Go’ checklist would have prevented this.”

“Engineers playing the headless chicken game in an emergency is worrying and indicates a shortfall in flood control exercises,” McCourt says, commenting on the on-board emergency response to the incident. “No matter how well-intentioned, I suspect trying to discharge ingress water through a blanked line is not going to succeed.” As a result of the safety lessons highlighted by the incident, Watkins Superyachts decided to add further flooding exercise guidance to their SMS; an example of the huge benefit that can come out of sharing and learning from maritime incidents.

Find the full MAIB report discussing the incident here.