A cross-Channel passenger ferry with nearly 400 people aboard became grounded in severe weather after the crew failed to detect a charted wreck, an official accident report said today.
A paper chart indicating the wreck off Deal in Kent was available on the P&O Ferries vessel Pride of Canterbury but "was not referred to at the crucial time", the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report said.
The wreck would not have been displayed on the electronic chart being used due to the user settings in use at the time of the incident around mid-day on 31 January 2008.
The officer of the watch was navigating by eye and with reference to the electronic chart but he was "untrained in the use and limitations of the system".
He became aware the vessel, travelling from Calais to Dover with 275 passengers and 101 crew on board, was passing close to a charted shoal but he was unaware that there was a charted wreck on the shoal.
The ferry grounded on the wreck suffering severe damage to its port propeller system but was able to proceed unaided to Dover where it berthed with the help of two tugs. No-one was hurt.
The report said that as the bad weather had temporarily closed the port of Dover, the ferry had sheltered in an area off Deal known as "The Downs".
The ferry's master had given verbal instructions on the geographic limits of the area in which the vessel was to wait.
The report said that as the vessel was approaching a turn at the northern extremity of the safe area, the bridge team had become distracted by a fire alarm and "a number of telephone calls for information of a non-navigational nature".
The report went on: "The vessel overshot the northern limit of the safe area before the turn was started."
The MAIB said the bridge team management was "ineffective" and there was no formal passage planning for the navigation of the vessel while waiting in The Downs.
The information exchange at watch handovers was not performed in a systematic way and the vessel's position was not systematically plotted on the paper chart.
The MAIB said that it had issued safety notices to ferry and other ship operators which detailed lessons learned from the accident.