Safety checks for all British ferries

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The Independent Online
THE Government yesterday ordered safety checks on the bow doors of all British ferries after video footage of the wreck of the Estonia indicated that her 60-ton bow door was ripped off after the locks failed during a storm.

The pictures prompted Sweden and Finland to announce that the bow doors on some of their ferries were to be welded shut. But British ferry operators are resisting moves to follow suit on cross- Channel and Irish Sea ferries.

However, it emerged yesterday that two P&O car ferries operating between Aberdeen and the Shetland Islands have had their bow doors welded to their hulls for at least two years because of safety worries. The St Clair and the St Sunnival had had problems with watertight seals, according to Captain Frank Duffin, chief surveyor of the Aberdeen office of the Marine Safety Agency.

The International Maritime Organisation has set up a panel of experts to review the safety of bow doors on ferries.

'Everything is on the table,' William O'Neil, secretary-general of the IMO, said yesterday.

'We will be looking into the safety of bow doors, the possibility of having walls or bulkheads installed on car decks, improvements to life- saving equipment and guidelines on the use of ferries in bad weather. We also want to ensure multinational crews can communicate with passengers.'

Ferries' future, page 9