For the third time in less than a month, a Red Funnel car ferry has been in collision with pleasure boats, this time causing the 32ft yacht Greylag to sink in Cowes Harbour.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) have launched an investigation into the matter which happened just after 8am on 21 October in heavy fog and involved the 4,128-tonne Red Falcon.
Red Funnel has said it is looking at its procedures for operating in limited visibility. The master and mate of the ferry have since been suspended, which Red Funnel said was ‘normal procedure’.
The MCA and the MAIB were already looking into the circumstances surrounding the collision between Red Falcon and a 31ft motor yacht Phoenix at Calshot Spit in the Solent at 4.40pm on 29 September, which left two boaters injured.
The latest incident resulted in Red Falcon grounding in Cowes Harbour. It was later refloated by tugs and docked at East Cowes where passengers and their vehicles were allowed to disembark.
The MCA said initially there were reports of cries for help in Cowes Harbour, prompting the launch of both the Cowes and Calshot RNLI lifeboats, and a coastguard search and rescue helicopter. Coastguard Rescue Teams from Bembridge, Needles and Ventnor were also deployed.
Nothing was found, and it was later discovered that the cries were from a yacht owner who was onboard his vessel and was trying to alert the master of the car ferry of its position to the moored craft.
Red Falcon underwent an initial inspection by MCA surveyors before being allowed to sail, without passengers, to Southampton for a more detailed survey.
The CEO of Red Funnel, Fran Collins, apologised for the disruption and stressed that the safety of passengers and crew were always given ‘the highest priority.’
Photos of the stranded Red Falcon were shared widely on social media, with many questioning the number of recent incidents involving Red Funnel.
On 27 September, the Red Eagle, while departing East Cowes for Southampton in fog, entered Cowes Harbour’s small craft mooring area.
The ferry hit a number of moored yachts, causing them to be ripped from their moorings. They were later recovered and towed to Shepards Marina for inspection.
The Cowes Harbour Commission is investigating this incident and the grounding of Red Falcon on 21 October.
Anyone who witnessed the incident on 21 October are asked to contact MCA Investigations and Enforcement Unit via email at enforcement. [email protected] leaving their contact details. Witnesses to the 29 September event should contact the MCA’s Paula Evans on 020 381 72574 quoting ‘Red Funnel Yacht Incident’.
...which proceeded to run aground
Moored boats were damaged (left) when Red Funnel’s MV Red Eagle left the inner fairway during fog. The motor yacht Phoenix suffered structural damage (right)
The 32-foot yacht Greylag sank after it was hit by the ferry...