THE SEA was calm. The sky was clear. A cruise ship was heading south towards Dover. A cargo vessel was sailing east towards Zeebrugge. Both ships were apparently equipped with the most advanced navigational aids available. Yet, for some unknown reason, those ships collided. Immediately questions were asked. How could this possibly have happened? What can be done to prevent a similar accident occurring again? Before ministers even begin to ponder whether yet more precautions are needed in the Channel, they should devote their energies to dealing with this problem. Otherwise, the real lessons of this accident might never be learnt.
IT WAS just like the Titanic, said some of the passengers. But it wasn't, of course. For a start, there was terrible loss of life when that "unsinkable" ship went down, and this time there were no deaths and miraculously few injuries. We need to know fast why this happened. And what must be done to stop it happening again.
THERE WILL be an inquiry. The cause of the accident, human or mechanical, will become known. Meanwhile we are reminded not merely of the hazards posed to shipping by the English Channel, but also of the unconquerable perils of the sea. Man has gone a long way in this century towards making life safer for himself, on land and sea and in the air. Yet in this quest for safety first, nature still defies him. As the poet Swinburne had it in that bitter line of his: "Glory to Man in the highest! for Man is the master of things". Yesterday's collision, and the earthquake in Turkey, are reminders of his limitations.
THE CHANNEL is one of the most congested waterways in the world. It has been compared to crossing the M1 blindfolded. At peak times on any day 300 ships pass through and 200 ferries sail between England and France. Ships are kept apart using the simple "motorway" idea... And as every skipper knows, there are rogue captains who cut corners and break the rules so as not to lose precious time.