Letter: Concern about safety of ro-ro ferries

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The Independent Online
From Mr Mark Watts, MEP

Sir: Many British holidaymakers will be alarmed by reports concerning the safety of roll-on, roll-off ferries. The leaked findings from the transport select committee report to be published on Friday suggest that safety on these ferries is currently unacceptably poor. As transport spokesperson for the European Parliamentary Labour Party, I would welcome any UK government measures that improve the safety of cross-Channel ferry transport. This is also an issue which requires European Union action. Legislation should cover all ferries using UK ports, not just UK ferries, and UK passengers need to know that they will be safe on all ferries operating in the EU.

The transport committee of the European Parliament has supported the public demand for greater safety at sea and stricter safety regulations. In June of this year I successfully guided legislation through the parliament on the safety management of ro-ro passenger vessels. The legislation addresses the human element of ferry safety and will force all EU countries to implement tough new safety standards from 1 January 1996.

Passengers cannot afford to wait any longer. The European Union must take a lead and pressure the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to make the fitting of watertight bulkheads compulsory at its November meeting. In the meantime, ferry companies can act themselves to improve the design and standards of their own ships. The Department of Transport could also make a start by releasing the data on buoyancy levels for all UK ferries that is currently unpublished in Britain. This would show immediately which vessels should and should not be operating.

Yours faithfully,

Mark Watts

MEP for Kent East



24 July