Grounding of ro-ro passenger ferry Isle of Arran

Location: Sgeir Rathaid reef, Oban Bay, Scotland.

Completed PE Summary: Isle of Arran

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Vessel name:   Isle of Arran
Operator:   CalMac Ferries Ltd
Registered Owner:   Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd
Port of Registry:   Glasgow
Flag:   UK
Classification Society:   Lloyd’s Register
Type:   Passenger ro-ro ferry
Built:   1984
Construction:   Steel
Length overall:   84.92m
Gross tonnage:   3296t
Date & Time:   28 March 2009 at 1651 UTC
Location of incident:   Oban, Scotland
Incident Type:   Grounding
Persons onboard:   25 crew and 19 passengers
Injuries/fatalities:   None
Damage/pollution:   Hull plating / no pollution


Isle of Arran sailed from No.2 berth in Oban, bound for the island of Colonsay, a route on which the vessel was not normally engaged. After slipping, the vessel’s speed was increased and she headed towards Sgeir Rathaid reef, a hidden danger in Oban Bay 5 cables from the berth and marked by north and south cardinal marks. With the sun directly ahead, the master found it difficult to see through a dirty bridge window, and arranged for it to be cleaned. He then altered course to port with the intention of leaving the reef and a south cardinal buoy marking its southern extremity to starboard. Inexplicably, the turn was stopped early with the buoy still on the port bow. The master was alerted to the danger ahead by the second officer and, although full astern pitch was applied, Isle of Arran grounded momentarily on the reef. The vessel suffered substantial hull damage, but was able to return to her berth without assistance. There was no water ingress and no pollution.

Action taken

The Deputy Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the vessel’s operator:

  • Recognising its investigation into the accident and the substantial number of actions already taken in an attempt to prevent similar accidents occurring in the future.

  • Highlighting the lack of a pre-departure brief, the need to monitor a vessel’s position in relation to an agreed passage plan, and the need to ensure that bridge teams are not distracted at critical times by routine husbandry tasks.

  • Strongly advising the performance of its bridge teams is regularly monitored to ensure compliance with procedures and to verify that appropriate standards are being maintained.

The Deputy Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has also written to the master strongly advising that he keeps his bridge team fully apprised of intentions when leaving and entering harbour, and also that he demands that appropriate standards of navigation are maintained at all times regardless of the route on which a vessel is engaged.

Published: May 2009

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