Ferries to be forced to fit anti-capsize bars

CHRISTIAN WOLMAR

Transport Correspondent

All ferries operating in British waters will, by 2000, have to be fitted with special barriers on the car decks to prevent capsizing.

Yesterday, speaking in the wake of the grounding of the cross-channel ferry Stena Challenger outside Calais on Tuesday with 250 people on board, Sir George Young, the Secretary of State for Transport, said that if necessary Britain and a group of its neighbours would go it alone in implementing higher safety standards on ferries operating in European waters.

Next month, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) meets to put the final touches on its report on the Estonia disaster a year ago in which 900 people died.

The IMO is likely to recommend measures to ensure that if the hull is holed, the car ferries stay upright long enough for passengers to be evacuated safely. This will mean fitting barriers, known as "transverse bulkheads", which are considered the most effective way to prevent disastrously rapid capsizing when water floods into the car deck - as happened in the Estonia and the Herald of Free Enterprise disasters.

The bulkheads would be lowered after loading in order to create several separate spaces on the car decks. Without them, even a small amount of water swilling from side to side can cause rapid capsizing.

While there are lingering doubts as to whether all the IMO countries will agree to the new standards when the final decision is made at its conference in November, Britain and most of Europe will ensure that these standards are introduced as quickly as possible.

Sir George said yesterday: "If agreement cannot be reached in the IMO this autumn, then I shall want to go ahead in any case with our European neighbours." He stressed that the measures would apply to any ferries operating in British waters.

According to Walter Welch, director of maritime services at the Chamber of Shipping, the introduction of the bulkheads would have to be phased in to allow the work to be carried out without disrupting services. He said companies would have four years to fit them.

Previously, the ferry companies have dragged their feet over introducing improvements in safety and resisted transverse bulkheads on the grounds of cost and disruption to services, even though they would have prevented the Herald disaster in which 193 people died in 1987.

Now, however, the ferry companies privately admit that the bulkheads, costing around pounds 1m per ferry, are inevitable. Although they used to argue that the barriers would seriously disrupt operations, they now say they would pose few problems.

Even now, many ferries have not met the Safety of Lives at Sea (Solas) standards agreed after the Herald disaster. Michael Meacher, Labour's transport spokesman, said 27 ferries operating in British waters would not meet standards for 9 years and another 18 for 12 years.

n The crew of the Stena Challenger was placed on standby last night to go back into service. The owners, Stena Sealink, hope that within the next 36 hours the ferry - which is in dry dock in Dunkirk, France, being inspected for damage - will be allowed to resume sailings.

The ship will have a new master at the helm. The present captain has been given temporary compassionate leave.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
One Direction's Zayn Malik gazes at a bouquet of flowers in the 'Night Changes' music video
people
News
people
News
'Free the Nipple' film screening after party with We Are The XX, New York, America - 04 Feb 2014
news
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May