Safety review after river crash

By Roddy AshworthA FREIGHT company's boat collided with a passenger vessel because of a blind spot and the lack of an effective lookout, an accident investigation report has concluded.

By Roddy Ashworth

A FREIGHT company's boat collided with a passenger vessel because of a blind spot and the lack of an effective lookout, an accident investigation report has concluded.

JJ Prior, an aggregates haulage company based in Fingringhoe, has since carried out a review of its procedures after the crash in the River Thames close to Lambeth Pier, London.

One of the company's boats, the Brenda Prior, was involved in a collision with the DUKW Beatrice, which was carrying 25 passengers on a circuit of the River Thames between Vauxhall and Westminster Bridges.

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The 30-metre long Brenda Prior was sailing down river after having unloaded a cargo of sand at Battersea when the accident happened shortly after 3pm on December 17.

The problem arose because the master of the Brenda Prior, although he had been aware of the Beatrice going in the same direction, had not realised that another similar vessel - the DUKW Titania - was also in the area.

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He decided to deviate from the normal route under Lambeth Bridge - the centre arch - and instead go through the next one along to line the boat up for Westminster Bridge and avoid oncoming traffic.

While under Lambeth Bridge, the Brenda Prior's master saw a DUKW up ahead, assumed it was the Beatrice and continued through - but he had seen the Titania and shortly after passing through the bridge his boat struck the Beatrice.

The Brenda Prior was not damaged, although the Beatrice suffered some minor structural problems in the collision. None of the passengers on board the Beatrice were hurt and it was able to make its way to shore.

A from the Marine Accidents Investigation Branch said the Brenda Prior, as an overtaking boat, had been required to keep out of Beatrice's way.

It failed to do so because the master had not seen the vessel as there was a blind spot at the front of the boat because it had risen up after unloading.

The report also noted that the Brenda Prior's master had not carried out an effective listening watch on the boat's radio before departure, so did not know about the presence of the Titania. He also failed to report on radio he was going to deviate from his planned track through Lambeth Bridge.

It added there had not been an effective lookout maintained on board and the Brenda Prior's master and deckhand's certificates of competency had expired nine months before the collision.

The report advised JJ Prior should review its safety management system with the aim of it complying with the voluntary International Safety Management Code.

Since the accident, managers at JJ Prior have told skippers they should keep ship-to-shore radios switched on and audible, and maintain a forward lookout when going through London bridges.

A spokesman for the company said it had reviewed its safety management policies. "We agreed to do that and it is more or less in place. We have been trading since the turn of the century and it is the first time anything like this has happened," he said.

The report also recommended the company operating the DUKW vessels should attempt to improve their visibility.

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