Failure of lifeboat bowsing gear on ro-ro passenger ferry P&OSL Aquitaine

Location: Undergoing a refit in dry dock at Falmouth Port, England.

Accident Investigation Report 15/2000

Read our marine accident investigation report, which includes what happened, actions taken and subsequent recommendations:

aquitaine .pdf (397.54 kb)


On 29 October 1999 P&OSL Aquitaine was in Falmouth dry-dock, undergoing a refit. Work involved removing the separate tricing pendant and bowsing tackles from the lifeboats, and replacing them with lighter, combined tricing/bowsing gear. The lengths of these were adjusted by slackening and then re-tightening the clamps on a short length of wire rope, which was part of the bowsing gear. As No 4 lifeboat was lowered, the clamping arrangement on the forward bowsing gear slipped, which allowed the forward end of the boat to swing out of control. Two crewmen were in the forward end of the boat. They were each wearing safety harnesses, and were unhurt.

Safety Issues

  • the wire clamps were re-,tightened insufficiently to withstand the load applied
  • the bowsing gear’s wire on the forward end of No 4 lifeboat slipped through its clamps as the lifeboat was being lowered to embarkation level
  • the initial and periodic tightening regime necessary to ensure the load carrying capacity of clamped wire connections is maintained makes them undesirable on load bearing components of LSA systems


The Maritime and Coastguard Agency have been recommended to issue clear and explicit guidance in its instructions to surveyors, on the acceptability of wire clamps on load bearing wire ropes of LSA launching systems The MAIB also recommends that P & 0 Stena Line Ltd, who are the owners of the vessel, remove from service bowsing wires which are fitted with ‘U’ bolt or ‘Bulldog’ wire clamps These should be replaced with wires having spliced hard eyes, or arrangements of similar strength and permanence

This report was published in 2000.

Published 23 January 2015