This is the report of the MAIB’s investigation into the grounding of the ro-ro ferry Commodore Clipper in the Little Russel channel approaching St Peter Port, Guernsey on 14 July 2014. The vessel raked over two granite pinnacles at full sea speed of about 18 knots; its hull was breached and seawater flooded into double-bottom void spaces. The grounding caused a noisy and shuddering vibration, but the crew did not immediately check for damage.
The key safety issues identified were:
Insufficient passage planning meant that the bridge team were unaware of the limits of safe water in the Little Russel channel, so headed into danger without appreciation of the navigational risk. The planning issues not properly considered were: the very low tide, the effect of the ship ‘squatting’ in shallow water at high speed and the accuracy of the chart data.
The possibility that the vessel had grounded was denied. In the circumstances of a shuddering vibration, it is important that the crew establish the state of their vessel by searching for damage.
The repetitive nature of ferry operations can induce a degree of complacency when planning.
The electronic navigation system was not being utilised effectively because safety settings were not appropriate to the local conditions, warnings were ignored and the audible alarm was disabled.
As the responsible authority, Guernsey Harbours did not have an effective risk assessment or safety management plan for the conduct of navigation in its statutory pilotage area.
Safety recommendations have been made to Condor Marine Services Limited (2015/144) and the Government of Guernsey (2015/145 and 2015/146) designed to ensure appropriate levels of proficiency in the conduct of safe navigation.