Marine accident investigators have called for tighter safety regulations for the River Thames ahead of the many events on the river this summer.

The recommendations come in a report into a Thames collision between a high-performance RIB and a passenger ferry.

It calls on the government to introduce drink-drive limits for skippers.

And, “taking into account the increased activity expected on the river during 2012”, for the PLA to impose a mandatory speed limit at areas of risk on the river.

Both crew members of the inflatable Morfil were thrown into the water when it collided with the passenger ferry  Sun Clipper by Blackfriars Bridge on June 1st last year. The pair were rescued by a local inshore lifeboat.

Key findings of a report into the incident by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) are:

  • The coxswain of a RIB which collided with a passenger ship on the River Thames was over the alcohol limit for motorists.
  • The RIB was exceeding the recommended 12 knot speed limit and her driver had little time to take successful avoiding action.
  • Neither the RIB driver nor his passenger was wearing lifejackets; both were thrown into the water on impact.
  • The driver of the RIB was not wearing a kill-cord and he and his passenger were fortunate not to be seriously injured as the RIB circled close by at speed before grounding.

The report found that action taken by Sun Clipper's master to avoid the collision was limited by closeness to the bridge and mooring buoys.

Work going on under  the bridge meant both vessels were using the same arch and the skippers could not to see each other until about ten seconds before the collision.

The MAIB said there had been at least 45 fatalities resulting from accidents to pleasure vessels over the last six years in which alcohol had been a contributory factor, adding: "It was extremely fortunate that a further two fatalities did not result from this collision."

Among its conclusions, the report says:

“The current byelaw imposing an alcohol limit for persons in charge of pleasure
vessels is not an effective deterrent.  It is of utmost concern that, despite first being recommended almost 20 years ago, a national alcohol limit for persons in charge of pleasure vessels has not yet been introduced.

"The continued absence of an alcohol limit for persons in charge of pleasure vessels compromises the safety of all water users.”

The report says the PLA prosecuted the RIB coxswain who was fined £2500, with £3366 costs.  The PLA has since launched the Thames Navigators’ Club with an aim of supplying boaters with navigational and other information.

Read the report in full

The PLA said: “This is a very good and thorough report into a serious accident which could easily have resulted in fatalities. The report highlights the dangers of speeding vessels in confined and congested waterways; and alcohol consumption by those in charge of boats, which should be regarded no differently to drink-driving on the roads.

“In this very busy year for London this report goes to the heart of why safety is crucial for all river users at all times.  

“We welcome all of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch key recommendations and in particular continue to work with the Department for Transport to strengthen the PLA’s safety regulations and enforcement.”

Story dated April 18th 2012