Grounding of ro-ro passenger ferry Ben-My-Chree

Location: Approaches to Heysham Harbour, England.

Completed PE Summary: Ben-my-Chree

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Registered Owner & Manager:   Isle of Man Steam Packet Company
Port of registry:   Douglas
Flag:   Isle of Man
Type:   Roro passenger ferry
Built:   1998
Classification society:   Lloyds Registry
Construction:   Steel
Length overall:   125.2 metres
Gross tonnage:   12,503
Date & Time   03/11/2006 02:23
Location of incident:   Approaches to Heysham harbour
Incident Type:   Grounding
Persons onboard:   93 passengers 31 crew


At about 0223 on 3 November, shortly after leaving Heysham harbour, the ro-ro passenger ferry slowly came to a stop as the vessel grounded on a shallow patch of sand in the navigational channel. The grounding occurred nearly 1 hour before a very low water spring height of tide. This was one of the few occasions during 2006 that sailing and arrival times coincided with a very low spring tide. The vessel refloated at about 0417 on the rising tide and she continued on with her passage to Douglas. A diving survey found no damage to the ship.

In the last 4 years, large amounts of silt had been deposited into the approach channel to Heysham from a new offshoot to the River Lune and navigational buoys had been moved accordingly. However a new shallower patch was discovered in June 2006 and the harbours’ users were given the latest hydrographic charts by the port authority.

Action taken

  • The Deputy Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the owners the company giving advice on guidance for minimum acceptable under keel clearance; changing the ship’s schedules when sailing/arrival times coincide with low water spring tides; the appropriate use of main engines, once a vessel is aground, and passage plans include tidal calculations and appropriate under keel clearances.

  • The Deputy Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the general manager of Heysham harbour to highlight the requirement contained within the Port Marine Safety Code for Harbour Authorities on the promulgation of port passage guidance, especially with regard to under keel clearance. This compliance should ensure that there is a clear and shared understanding by all users of all potential hazards in the Harbour Area and the margins of safety required to maintain the safety of the harbour and the vessels using it.

Published 23 January 2015