At 0450 (UTC+11) on 19 May 2016 the Danish registered ro-ro freight ferry Petunia Seaways and the historic motor launch Peggotty collided on the River Humber while in dense fog. As a result of the collision the motor launch suffered severe structural damage and began to take on water. The crew of a local pilot launch responded to Peggotty’s skipper’s VHF2 “Mayday” call and were able to reach the motor launch and rescue the skipper and the one other person on board before it sank. There were no injuries and no significant pollution.
Petunia Seaways’ bridge team remained unaware that the two vessels had collided until after they had left the river, when they were informed by VTS Humber.
The MAIB investigation established that Peggotty was visible on both Petunia Seaways’ and VTS Humber’s radar displays, although neither acquired the target nor attempted to plot it. At the time of the accident Petunia Seaways had a speed over the ground of 14 knots and was not sounding a regular fog signal.
Although Peggotty’s skipper/owner was an off-duty pilot employed on the River Humber, the short voyage from Grimsby to Hull was not being conducted in accordance with best maritime practice and Peggotty’s seaworthiness was affected by a number of factors.
The MAIB investigation concluded that Peggotty’s skipper became disorientated in the dense fog, resulting in him taking the motor launch into the shipping channel and subsequently into the path of the outbound ferry.
Associated British Ports conducted an internal investigation into the collision. This resulted in a number of actions being taken, including the suspension of both Peggotty’s owner from his duties as a Humber pilot and Petunia Seaways’ master’s Pilotage Exemption Certificate for the Humber. A general notice providing guidance on navigation in fog and a specific notice to Vessel Traffic Services Operators aimed at clarifying their role during periods of restricted visibility were also issued.
No recommendations have been made in this report.
Peggotty was a historic launch and of sound construction when built. However, at the time of the accident the launch was over 70 years old and it had not been subjected to a structural survey for at least 20 years. It is without doubt that Peggotty’s wooden hull failed in the collision with Petunia Seaways. As no direct source of water ingress was visible, it is likely that the launch’s planking failed along the upper limit of the lower hull’s fibreglass coating, leading to catastrophic damage and making the loss of the launch inevitable.
Peggotty was equipped with a radar, a GPS plotter, navigational lights and a hand-held fog horn. However, it was not equipped with a radar reflector, the radar scanner was not rigged, the GPS plotter did not have the correct charts, and although there was a paper chart on board there were no plotting instruments. Furthermore, the navigational lights were faulty and the hand-held fog horn was not sounded regularly.
These shortcomings meant that when Peggotty departed the Grimsby Royal Dock lock it could not be considered seaworthy as it did not meet the requirements specified by SOLAS and the COLREGs. These requirements would have been well known to the skipper and it is unfortunate that he did not apply his professional competence to his personal endeavours, so as to ensure the safety of Peggotty and all on board.
Conclusions from the report
• Peggotty was not seaworthy as it did not meet the requirements specified by SOLAS and the COLREGs.
• Peggotty’s skipper did not reassess his mental passage plan when it was apparent that the fog would make visual navigation impossible.
• The action taken by Petunia Seaways’ master was insufficient and too late to avoid a collision.
• A reduction in Petunia Seaways’ speed would have allowed the master more time to assess the radar target ahead of him.
• Had Petunia Seaways’ fog horn been sounding regularly, Peggotty’s skipper might have been alerted to his situation.
• The VTSO did not monitor small vessels effectively to deconflict traffic.
• The VHF conversation between the VTSO and Cape Star was a distraction during a critical time.
• It would have been prudent for the VTSO to advise traffic to proceed with caution within the vicinity of the accident.
Read the MAIB report in full: MAIBInvReport04_2017