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MCA blame NorthLink skipper for near miss

THE MARITIME & Coastguard Agency has laid the blame for a near miss involving a passenger ferry and a coastguard tug in Kirkwall harbour last month firmly at the door of the ferry skipper.

The 500 passengers on board the NorthLink ferry Hrossey were alarmed when the vessel suddenly lurched sideways to avoid the emergency towing vessel Herakles as they approached Hatston pier on a calm, foggy night on 3 July.

Since the incident, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has tirelessly pursued the ferry company, the coastguard agency and the harbour authority calling for an investigation into a potential collision that was missed by just 30 seconds.

On Thursday the MSP released an email from the MCA’s acting director of safety and standards Chris Thomas suggesting the ferry skipper had been responsible for the incident.

Thomas said that the MCA had sent a marine surveyor to Orkney to interview the crews of both vessels and the harbourmaster, who had established that the Herakles had been anchored in the correct position clear of any shipping lane at the time.

Tavish Scott MSP is still calling for an investigation into the July incident in Orkney harbour.

Pointing out that the Hrossey’s approach would have been clearly visible on the tug’s radar, he said: “The evidence indicates that the master of the MV Hrossey miscalculated the turn into the bay and this was the cause of the ferry coming close to the tug.”

Thomas said the incident was being “considered” by NorthLink, however the company has reasserted that there would be no further investigation.

Managing director Stuart Garrett said: “All the correct procedures for operating in restricted visibility were followed…we can confirm that no further investigation or action is required.”

Orkney Islands Council has also declined to investigate the incident any further.

The decision has angered Scott, who said that everyone in the northern isles who depends on the lifeline service deserves an explanation.

“In light of these remarks from the MCA, it would seem appropriate that the OIC as harbour authority review their decision not to conduct an investigation into a near miss in their harbour,” he said.

“One of our passenger ships narrowly missed a stationary emergency tug that was anchored in Kirkwall Bay. Experts say a collision was avoided by only 30 seconds.

“On the night in question there was thick mist. So why was the Hrossey steaming at high speed in a harbour area?

“The shipping company need to explain what procedures are in their safety management system (SMS) for such conditions.”