Viking Splash vessels may come from same stock as fatal US ‘duck boat’

Tour company director says the Dublin vehicles are not exposed ‘to the same risks’

 A Viking Splash Tour enters the Grand Canal basin in Dublin. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A Viking Splash Tour enters the Grand Canal basin in Dublin. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Dublin’s Viking Splash Tours has said the “duck boat” which sank with the loss of 17 lives in the US on Thursday “may in essence” originally have been the same type of vessel as that employed by the company.

However, Viking Splash Tours company director Fergal Rogers said the Dublin tours, which provide a road- and waterway-based experience for visitors, operate in a different and “very benign” environment.

He pointed out that Dublin’s Grand Canal basin, where passengers are taken for the water-based element of the tour, was a much quieter watercourse than that used in Missouri and key safety measures were undertaken.

Mr Rogers, who said his thoughts were with the families of those who died in the US incident, said about 23,000 such craft, designed for use in the Normandy landings in 1944, were sold off at the end of the second World War. “That was about the start of our industry; there are about 2,000 left,” he said.

Over the years, the vehicles were modified by different operators.

Mr Rogers said the US duck boat that sank had been modified to create extra seating, but he was aware the business had had a 40-year record for safety.

In relation to the Viking Splash Tours, he said flotation devices called sponsons were fitted to the vehicles, a modification that was required by the Department of Transport and is not a standard in the industry globally.

He also said everyone who is onboard has to wear a life-jacket without exception.

“On any vessel all occupants should wear life-jackets, that is an obvious one,” he said.

He said amphibious craft like the Viking Splash vessels were also used up to recently on the Thames river in London where there is a lot of commercial traffic.

But he said: “We operate in a very benign water system, we are not exposed to the same risks.”

Safety regulations

Mr Rogers said the vehicles were subject to the same safety regulations as any road-based coach operator and the same safety regulations as any waterborne passenger vessel.

He said they were also subject to annual Department of Environment road worthiness testing.

Including licensing for routes, he said the overall permissions required to operate the tours involved about 10 licences, many of which involved annual checks, including inspections by the Department of Transport.

“When the tour is offering somebody the experience of moving from land to water you have to minimise every risk as much as you can.

“The Department of Transport would regard us as being very pro-active about safety,” he said.