Stena to launch inquiry into engine failure after sea alert

 

Stena Line says it will conduct an investigation into the cause of yesterday's engine failure on the Stena Europe passenger ferry off the Wexford coast with 220 people on board.

The Irish Coast Guard's marine emergency plan was activated when a Pan Pan alert was issued by the ship about four miles south of Tuskar Rock at 12.41 p.m. yesterday while en route from Rosslare to Fishguard.

However, the emergency services were stood down when engineers on board managed to restart the engines within an hour of failure, and one helicopter remained to monitor the ship's progress on passage.

An engineer and surveyor from the British Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) boarded the ship on its arrival in the Welsh port of Pembroke last night, and the company said the vessel would only sail when given clearance by the MCA.

Once it regained power, the ship was diverted from Fishguard due to bad weather conditions.

The 149 metre ship is equipped with four engines, three of which are used during passage, and the company says that the vessel has never experienced a breakdown like this since its construction in 1981.

The passenger and car ferry has been working on Irish Stena Line routes since March last year, having previously been based in Scandinavia. It was the subject of a total refit prior to being transferred here, the company says.

The ship was due to sail from Rosslare to Fishguard at 9 a.m. yesterday, but was delayed due to bad weather. It sailed about midday and lost power in all four engines some 40 minutes later.

Mr Eamonn Hewitt, of Stena Line, said that there was "no panic" on board among the 155 passengers, who were asked to proceed to the muster stations. The vessel also had 65 crew on board. Force eight northerly winds were gusting between 35 and 45 knots and the vessel was drifting at a rate of seven knots towards Carnsore Point.

A tug hired to refloat a car ferry which ran aground in Rosslare earlier this week came to the ship's assistance, and was prepared to put a line if required. The marine research ship, Celtic Voyager, was also in the area.

The Irish Coast Guard initiated its marine emergency plan, and sought assistance from rescue helicopters from Dublin and Waterford. It also requested assistance from two RAF helicopters, and an RAF Nimrod aircraft was on standby. RNLI lifeboats from Arklow, Co Wicklow, Kilmore Quay and Rosslare, Co Wexford, were launched.

Mr Brendan Pitt, newly appointed coxswain of the Rosslare lifeboat, said it arrived on the scene about 1.50 p.m., as did the Kilmore Quay lifeboat in a five-metre swell.

"We stood a couple of cables off until the situation was resolved. The ship's crew was very much in control and did a very professional job", he added.

By 1.30 p.m., the ship had one engine going and started a second shortly afterwards. The emergency plan was then stood down

The company said last night it had no plans to replace the ship on the route if it was cleared to sail by the MCA. It is heavily booked today with Munster rugby supporters travelling to Wales.

The Irish Coast Guard said it was very pleased at the speed with which its emergency plan was put into operation in the Irish Sea. In July, 2001, the Coast Guard staged a major emergency simulation exercise in Dublin Bay as part of the plan. This involved the mock rescue of 45 passengers and 37 crew from a roll-on/roll-off container ship.