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Attempt to 'run ahead of' 154km/h storm caused 'worst ever' Irish Ferries crossing from France

Ten passengers and two crew members were injured when the MV Epsilon was caught up in Storm Imogen.

Waves crash against a lightohouse in Dover during Storm Imogen, which caused the MV Epsilon to roll to an angle of 33 degrees.
Waves crash against a lightohouse in Dover during Storm Imogen, which caused the MV Epsilon to roll to an angle of 33 degrees.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

A DECISION BY commanders of an Irish Ferries ship to “run ahead of” a Status Orange storm led to multiple injuries and extensive damage to freight cargo, a report has found.

Ten passengers and two crew members were injured when the MV Epsilon was caught during Storm Imogen while en route from Cherbourg in France in February 2016.

The Italian-built ship hit winds of 60 knots in what one observer said was probably the “worst ever” crossing from France, adding that it was “lucky the ship was not lost”.

A report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board into the incident found that the issue may have arisen because of a reliance upon an outdated weather forecast.

It also raised concerns over how decisions were made by both masters on the ship before it sailed.

According to the report, the night-time duty master voiced concerns about the impending storm during his hand over to the senior master at 7.00am on 7 February.

However, he was overruled by the day-time duty master – the ship’s senior master – and the sailing was prosecuted as scheduled.

Better shelter

“It appears that the night-time duty master considered that the weather conditions justified a decision to defer the sailing until the weather improved,” the report read.

“The day-time duty master who was the senior master determined that the ship would sail.”

The report explained that at 4.30am on Monday 8 February, the ship rounded Land’s End in the south of England.

It had the option of sheltering from the weather in a number of bays in the English Channel, but the night time master chose not to do so because he anticipated better shelter would be available in the Bristol Channel.

At 10.00am, the MV Epsilon entered Barnstaple Bay off Devon, which provided some degree of shelter.

However at 11.50am, the vessel began a series of rolls, each time rolling further than the last, until it rolled so hard on its starboard side that it reached an angle of around 33 degrees.

At this point, several vehicles on board broke loose from their restraints and shifted, causing damage to other vehicles on a number of decks.

A number of passengers and crews also suffered injuries during the same turn.

Thousands of euro

The vessel subsequently stabilised and continued across Barnstaple Bay until the weather calmed sufficiently to resume passage.

During this period the crew worked to secure the cargo in its shifted position and to attend to those who had been injured.

At 3.00am Tuesday 9 February, the vessel finally departed Barnstaple Bay as the weather improved and continued on its passage to Dublin, where it arrived at 11.51am and was met by a doctor, customer service agents and vehicle removal contractors.

In their conclusions, the authors of the report found that the failure of vehicle securing points during the cargo shift roll contributed to the damage caused to the cargo on board.

It also found that the night-time duty master did not take the opportunity of seeking shelter before rounding Land’s End, despite the fact that options to do so were available.

“His decision to round Land’s End, as it was likely that better shelter was available on the south coast of England, turned out not to be the case,” it said.

The final damage to the cargo and vehicles on board was estimated to be thousands of euro.

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