MAIB: Poor Watchkeeping Led to Collision Between Ro-Ro and Cruiser in the Solent

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March 28, 2019

Photo: UK MAIB /

The UK Maritime Accident Investigation Branch says that poor watchkeeping contributed to last September’s collision between the ro-ro passenger ferry and a recreational cruiser in the Solent near Southampton, England.

On 29 September 2018, the UK registered roll-on roll-off passenger ferry Red Falcon and the privately-owned motor cruiser Phoenix collided in the Thorn Channel, causing the Phoenix to become pinned against the ferry’s bow for 18 seconds – causing serious damage the cruiser.

Both vessels were heading for Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

There were no injuries among the ferry’s 20 crew and 182 passengers or the Phoenix’s four passengers. No pollution was reported.

The Solent separates the Isle of Wight from the UK mainland and is a busy shipping lane leading to the port of Southampton.

red falcon collision
Photo shows the collision between the Red Falcon ro-ro and motor cruiser Phoenix on September 28, 2018. Photo: MAIB

In the report, the MAIB identified that the lookout on both Red Falcon and Phoenix was solely by eye. According to the MAIB, the Red Falcon’s bridge team did not see the motor cruiser on the starboard bow due to Phoenix being obscured by the sun’s glare and window frame blind arcs. The effectiveness of the lookout maintained on board Red Falcon’s bridge was reduced because the master and chief officer remained seated and the bridge window sun screens were not lowered.

In addition, Phoenix’s owner had limited knowledge of the COLREGs and local guidance, and did not check astern when entering the Thorn Channel at a shallow angle.

Following the accident, an internal investigation by the Southampton Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Limited (Red Funnel), Red Falcon’s owner, identified several areas of navigational watchkeeping practices to be improved.

In view of this action, the MAIB has not made additional recommendations.

We encourage you to read the full report at this link: MAIB investigation report 4-2019: Red Falcon and Phoenix

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