Steering failure on passenger vessel Symphony and subsequent contact with bridge

Location: Lambeth Bridge, River Thames, England.

Accident Investigation Report 18/2000

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

symphony.pdf (3,631.84 kb)


Passenger vessel Symphony operating with a deck crew of three, plus a catering and entertainment crew of 12, left the berth at Embankment pier, River Thames, England on 4 October 1999. The vessel had 103 passengers on board at the time. As the vessel approached the centre arch of Lambeth bridge it suffered steering failure. This loss of control and the resultant directional instability caused Symphony to make a series of low speed contacts with the bridge.

Safety issues

  • with no visual or audible indicators of the problem available to the master, immediate corrective response was not possible

  • the loss of steering, combined with all instruments reading normal, is not a predictable emergency situation. The proximity of Lambeth bridge, the effect of the tidal stream and the confused signals as to the condition of the vessel were all significant factors in the accident

  • the alcohol content identified in the positive breath test made by Symphony’s master some one to one-and-a-half hours after the event, is likely to have influenced both the decisions and the speed at which they were taken


Recommendations have been made to Catamaran Cruiser’s Ltd, the Port of London Authority and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

This report was published on 21 June 2000.

Published 23 January 2015