MAIB: Experienced Launch Skipper Relied on iPad Navigation App Prior to Collision

Peggotty after the collision, showing the stowed mast and deployed liferaft
The historic motor launch Peggotty after the collision, showing the stowed mast and deployed liferaft, Mary 16, 2016. 

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch has issued its report into last year’s collision between a historic motor launch and a DFDS roll-on/roll-off ferry on the Humber River, identifying a number of safety issues including the launch skippers’ reliance on an iPad app for navigation.

On May 16, 2016, the Danish registered ro-ro freight ferry Petunia Seaways and the wooden motor launch Peggotty collided on the River Humber while in dense fog. The motor launch was severely damaged in the collision, causing the vessel to take on water and sink.

No injuries or significant pollution was reported.

The MAIB report said that “although Peggotty was visible on both VTS Humber and Petunia Seaways’ radar displays, neither acquired nor plotted the target.” Following the collision the ferry’s bridge team was unaware of the incident until they were later informed by VTS Humber upon leaving the river.

One of the more jarring findings in the report is that the Peggotty’s skipper, an off-duty ship pilot himself, had relied primarily on a wifi-connected electronic navigation application on an iPad as his primary means of navigation.

“The apparent functionality of the iPad navigation app gave both men false confidence in their ability to navigate safely in the dense fog,” the MAIB report said. “However, neither man had used the system before and no back-up arrangements, such as rigging the mast to use the radar, were considered. Therefore, when the iPad lost a reliable Wi-Fi signal and the iPad app stopped working, Peggotty was immersed in the fog with no buoyage visible and the skipper lost his situational awareness entirely. Despite this, he continued on passage, hoping to see a channel buoy.”

In the report, the MAIB identified a number of safety issues, including: Petunia Seaways’ bridge team did not proceed at a speed adapted for the prevailing weather conditions and did not sound a regular sound signal; Peggotty’s skipper, an off-duty pilot, did not adequately prepare for the short voyage to Hull; and the VTS officer did not appreciate the developing situation although both vessels were visible on his radar display.

The report did not make any recommendations.