Contact made by passenger vessel Millennium City with bridge

Location: Westminster Bridge, River Thames, England.

Completed PE Summary: Millennium City

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Vessel name:   Millennium City
Manager:   City Cruises Ltd
Ship Owner:   City Cruises Ltd
Port of Registry:   London
Flag:   UK
Type:   Passenger vessel UK Class V
Built:   1999
Construction:   Steel
Length overall:   29.2m
Gross tonnage:   270
Date & Time:   25/01/08 22:23UTC
Location of incident:   River Thames (Westminster Bridge), London
Incident Type:   Contact with arch buttress
Persons onboard:   36
Injuries/fatalities:   None
Damage/pollution:   Flooding of starboard engine room and steering compartment

Synopsis

At the start of an evening cruise on the River Thames on 25 January 2008, Millennium City, with a crew of 6 and an entertainer on board, picked up 29 passengers from Westminster Pier at 1915. The vessel then headed downriver as far as the Thames Barrier before turning and making her way back to the city. The trip was scheduled to finish at 2230, but the vessel arrived off Westminster Pier about 15 minutes earlier than intended and her skipper decided to proceed further up the river to enable the passengers to see the Houses of Parliament by night. Accordingly, he navigated the vessel under Westminster Bridge and, after a short distance, turned around to return to Westminster Pier as scheduled. However, when the vessel was passing under the arch No 4 of Westminster Bridge, she was nearer the south bank of the river than intended, and at 2225 her starboard quarter made contact with the southerly arch buttress. The contact caused several of the passengers to lose their balance and fall over.

The vessel cleared the bridge, but as she approached Westminster Pier, her bilge alarms sounded and she started to develop a list to starboard. Electrical power was also lost. By 2228, the vessel was secured alongside the pier and all the passengers were able to disembark in an orderly fashion. Shortly afterwards, the vessel was attended by the shore emergency services and pumps were rigged to remove water from the engine room and steering compartment which had flooded. However, when it was seen that the water in the engine room was at the same level as the river, pumping was stopped.

Divers inspected the vessel’s starboard side and discovered a gash more than 2m long below the waterline, which extended from the steering compartment to the engine room. As the vessel had stabilised, albeit with a severe starboard list, she was towed clear of Westminster Pier and beached in the vicinity of the OXO Tower to allow temporary repairs to be made.

A piece of steel about 11mm thick and 300mm long was later found to be protruding out of the arch buttress of Westminster Bridge with which Millennium City had made contact.

Action taken

The Port of London Authority has:

  • Completed an investigation into the contact

  • Stated its intention to issue guidance to all vessel operators on the features and characteristics of the bridges across the River Thames within its area of responsibility

Transport for London has:

  • Inspected the buttress and removed the protruding piece of steel

  • Stated its intention to repair the arch buttress at the earliest opportunity.

The vessel’s owner has:

  • Undertaken to reassess the risks to its vessels transiting under Westminster Bridge.

Published: March 2008


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