Lessons have been learned
SAFETY measures for ferries which were recommended by the Court of Inquiry, came into force within a year of the accident. And during the 20 years since the Herald tragedy, the ferry industry has gone through a major reassessment and has questioned its procedures on safety. In 1987 the court was critical of Townsend Thoresen after hearing that some captains had suggested installing indicator lights on the bridge, so a captain could be certain the bow doors had been closed. The reply from one company director to the memo was: “Do they [captains] really need an indicator to tell them whether the deck storekeeper is awake and sober? My goodness!” In November 1987 a statutory instrument was brought before Parliament, which came into force on January 1, 1988. It required that access door indicating systems and television or CCTV systems monitoring bow and stern doors, be fitted on the bridge. The work was carried out as a matter of urgency and today, the systems on the bridge for checking on bow and stern
Do captains really need an indicator to tell them whether the deck storekeeper is awake? My goodness!
doors, are monitored by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. In the 1980s, ferries would often put to sea with captains assuming that the doors were closed, unless an officer told them otherwise. Today the key difference is that a captain awaits a verbal positive report from the loading officer that all shell doors and hatches in the main deck are securely closed, before leaving the berth. All the doors are monitored by CCTV systems and an alarm sounds if there is any leakage between the bow visor and the inner watertight door. Prior to sailing and only after completing all pre-departure checks, a Master advises passengers that the ferry is secure and ready to sail. Another piece of legislation, the Merchant Shipping (Emergency Equipment Lockers for Ro-ro passenger ships) Regulations, came into force in April 1989. The act specified the equipment that should be carried on ferries in the event of an emergency, as the court heard that emergency equipment on the Herald was of little use following the accident. A locker is now on an open deck on each side of the vessel and emergency equipment includes a glass breaking hammer, a ladder, a pulley and different sized straps. The Herald’s emergency lighting had failed as water poured in, making it difficult for survivors to orientate themselves. By July 1988, legislation had made it a requirement to install supplementary emergency lighting. Again, 1988 saw legislation take immediate action to deal with how ferries were managed, following the court’s criticisms of the way the Herald was managed. The Merchant Shipping (Operations Book) Regulations 1988 required the provision of a comprehensive operations book and the designation of a person on shore responsible for monitoring and making adequate provision for operating the ferry, to comply with the book. Subsequently management procedures were enshrined in the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, produced by the International Maritime Organisation. The code ensures that suitable management structures exist and that decision making affecting ferries can be traced, through regular audits. An ISM certificate is only granted after regular audits, which need to show a company is complying. Without an ISM certificate, a ferry would never leave the berth.
With thanks to the British Chamber of Shipping, who provided advice on legislation.
SAFE SHIPS: Dover Eastern Docks, where ferries leave and arrive 24 hours a day. Since 1987, various acts of Parliament have meant rigid safety procedures must be adhered to