Passengers and crew injured after captain 'fell asleep' and ferry ran aground

Damage was caused to the vessel's bow and almost all the vehicles onboard the roll-on roll-off passenger ferry.

Over 40 passengers and crew members onboard a passenger ferry were injured after the captain “almost certainly fell asleep” and ran aground on an uninhabited Scottish island. 

An investigation into the grounding of MV Alfred at Swona Island on Pentland Firth on July 5, 2022 found that its captain “almost certainly fell asleep”, allowing it to swing towards land.

The impact caused injuries to 41 passengers and crew and damage to the vessel’s bow and almost all the vehicles onboard the roll-on roll-off passenger ferry.

The vessel, operated by Pentland Ferries, was refloated and towed to its destination at St Margaret’s Hope after 82 passengers were evacuated.

Three key safety issues were identified in the Marine Accidents investigation including that the captain of the vessel “routinely passed too close to land” and that “fatigue led to loss of awareness at a critical point in the vessel’s passage.”

There was also found to be a “lack of assurance that procedures were being followed.”

MV Alfred ran aground on Swona in the Pentland Firth in July 2022.Pentland Ferries

It was recommended that Pentland Ferries “ensure that it captures passenger details and injuries post-accident” and that crew members are “sufficiently well rested” before coming on duty.

Andrew Moll, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents said: “Lots of safety action has been taken as a result of this accident and I am encouraged by the actions taken by Pentland Ferries to address the issues raised in this report.

“However, this accident offers a wider opportunity for lessons to be learned across the maritime industry.

“Alfred’s master routinely operated very close to the coast leaving little margin for error when they found themselves in an unsafe situation.

“Regardless of the type of vessel you are operating, it is critical that a safe passage plan is made and that it is followed.

“Always allow sufficient sea room to enable action to be taken in good time if things are not going to plan.

“On the afternoon of July 5, 2022, the master almost certainly fell asleep and allowed the ferry to swing towards land.

“Crew should always be sufficiently well rested when coming on duty.

“Finally, this case highlights the importance of management assuring themselves that plans and procedures they have put in place are actually being followed.

“If you have management oversight of a vessel or maritime operation, ask yourself; do I know that our crews and front-line staff are following our procedures, and are our plans fit for purpose in a real-life emergency situation?”

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