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Report into ferry grounding blames human failure and lack of lights

The Pirate Queen passenger ferry was grounded as it tried to berth at a Mayo pier just before Christmas 2011.

The start of Roonagh pier (File photo)
The start of Roonagh pier (File photo)
Image: Google Maps

A REPORT INTO why a passenger ferry ran aground in Mayo has found that “serious weaknesses” in practices on the company’s vessels and a lack of lights were to blame.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board criticised the Pirate Queen ferry for using passengers “no matter how well qualified” as crew members.

It also found that there was an overreliance on visual aids to navigate while electronic aids on board were neglected, according to its report into the incident which was published today.

The Pirate Queen passenger ferry sustained major damage when it grounded on rocks as it approached Roonagh Pier in Mayo at 6.25pm on 20 December 2011.

Three passengers and two crew were on board at the time, as well as another passenger who had been asked to serve as a crew member as the ferry travelled back to Roonagh Pier from Inishturk Island off the west coast.

The report found that the captain of the ferry received a test to say the main lights at Roonagh pier were not operating. Forty minutes after receiving the text, he made the decision to berth, despite a lack of lights on the pier reducing visibility.

However a large swell pushed the vessel onto the rocks near the pier where it began to roll.

One passenger was injured in the incident when she was thrown against a structure on the boat by the heavy waves. The report noted that she suffered an injury to her back but the lifejacket prevented injury to her head.

The report found the ferry operator had had “a number of communications” with Mayo County Council about the condition of working lights on the pier at Roonagh which are vulnerable to storm damage. Nine out of twelve lights on the pier were found to be burnt out.

The report noted that some lights at the pier had been destroyed by heavy seas breaking over the pier, making it difficult to see how high the waves were at the pier until a vessel had gotten extremely close to it.

The Marine Casualty Investigation board recommended that Clare Island Ferry and Clew Bay Cruises Limited ensure all of their employees take part in a range of emergency procedures, display crew rosters for the vessels a week in advance and come up with pilot approach instructons for all ports used by the company.

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