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Crash boat Moon Clipper had faulty controls, reveals report


A catamaran hit a pier on the River Thames, injuring 14 passengers, after the master used a control joystick known to be faulty, an accident report revealed today.

The vessel, Moon Clipper, was running late and the speed of its approach accentuated the effect of the steering control failure, the report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said.

Distractions on the bridge adversely affected the master's reactions and crew resources were overloaded during the response to the emergency on the Thames in London on the night of October 5 last year, the report added.

Passengers were not mustered and a headcount was not taken prior to the passengers being allowed to disperse, the MAIB said.

Moon Clipper had departed London Bridge City Pier with 53 passengers on board and headed for Tower Millennium Pier on the opposite side of the river.

Approaching the pier, the vessel suffered a steering control failure and veered to port. During the master's attempts to regain control, the starboard main engine stalled and, five seconds later, the stem of Moon Clipper's port hull made heavy contact with the pier, causing her passengers and crew to be thrown forward.

Fourteen passengers and two crew suffered whiplash and/or minor injuries and the stem of the vessel's port hull was fractured.

The report said that earlier in the day, it was noticed that Moon Clipper's steering control joystick was sticking hard over, rather than centring when released.

The defect could not be immediately rectified but the vessel remained in service on the understanding that the helm wheel would be used to steer the vessel.

The report went on: "Moon Clipper veered to port because the master had reverted to using the joystick, which subsequently stuck hard over to port during the approach to the pier.

"The joystick had not been designed for continual operation, and its centring spring had failed."

The MAIB made a number of safety recommendations and added that the Thames Clippers company and the Port of London Authority had taken action.