Grounding of ro-ro passenger ferry Earl Granville

Location: Off Cherbourg, France

Accident Investigation Report: Earl Granville

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



The Earl Granville is a British ro-ro vessel holding a Passenger and Safety Certificate for 862 persons. The vessel was operated and managed by Sealink UK Ltd at the time of this accident, and was carrying 707 passengers and about 170 vehicles from Portsmouth to Cherbourg.

The vessel struck a charted rock off the entrance to Cherbourg Harbour at about 0448 hrs on 19 August 1989, which was almost exactly the time of low water, with a spring tide. Earl Granville did not strand, and was able to continue passage into Cherbourg unaided. The vessel was, however, very seriously damaged and spent several months undergoing repair. There were no injuries to personnel as a result of the accident.

Safety issues

The principal cause of the accident was that the vessel made her approach too far to the East. At least part of the reason for this was failure to appreciate in sufficient time the very rapid change in tidal flow as the Port was approached.

The response to the emergency did not reflect the fact that the ship was in real hazard. It is accepted that the Master acted in good faith in not wishing to alarm the passengers, and in the event his judgement that the vessel would safely reach her berth was correct. Nonetheless, the safety of passengers should have been paramount, and he should have at least initiated basic emergency procedures, mustered the passengers and broadcast a PAN message. Although there is no doubt that Masters of cross-channel femes are well aware in principle of the proper emergency procedures, increased participation in practical exercises would lead to them being more readily followed when actual emergencies arise.


Recommendations have been made to multiple organisations as a result of this investigation.

This report was published on 17 September 1991.

Published 23 January 2015