Red Funnel is now reviewing its procedures for operating in limited visibility after a yacht was sunk in Cowes Harbour by its car ferry Red Falcon

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) have launched an investigation after a Red Funnel car ferry collided with yachts in Cowes Harbour, sinking a 32ft Contessa, Greylag.

This is the third time Red Funnel has been involved in an incident with pleasure craft in less than a month.

The latest collision happened at just after 8am on 21 October 2018.

Red Funnel has since suspended the master and the mate of the Red Falcon, which it said was ‘normal procedure’, and is now looking at its procedures for operating in limited visibility.

In a statement, Fran Collins, Red Funnel’s CEO said “Our Southampton-East Cowes service is operating as scheduled today following the yesterday’s incident involving Red Falcon. An underwater survey and detailed inspection found that there was no damage to the ship which is back in service and operating normally.”

“Red Funnel has a proactive safety management culture and a detailed internal investigation into this incident has been initiated to identify the root cause. Whilst the investigation is underway, the navigational team involved in the incident will not be rostered on board which is in accordance with best practice.”

“As normal, the investigation will also consider any other similar incidents that have occurred, both internally and industry-wide, and will seek to identify any common factors. Prior to completion of the report, however, and as a precautionary measure, some amendments to our bridge operating procedures in reduced visibility have been made although these changes are not expected to impact on the reliability of the service or the frequency of weather-related cancellations,” added Collins.

The collision left the 4128-tonne car ferry grounded. The ship was later refloated and docked at East Cowes to allow passengers to disembark with their vehicles before an inspection by the MCA.

The car ferry was later cleared to be sailed to Southampton, without any passengers, for a more detailed inspection by MCA surveyors.

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No one was injured, although the Cowes and Calshot RNLI lifeboats and a coastguard search and rescue helicopter were scrambled following initial reports of cries for help from the water.

Coastguard Rescue Teams from Bembridge, Needles and Ventnor were also deployed.

Nothing was found, and it was later discovered that the cries for help was a yacht owner who was onboard his vessel and was trying to alert the master of the Red Falcon of its position to the moored craft.

This is the third incident involving a Red Funnel ferry in less than a month.

On 29 September 2018, Red Falcon hit a 31-foot motor yacht, Phoenix at Calshot Spit injuring two people onboard the motor yacht and damaging the boat. None of the ferry passengers were injured.

Both the MCA and the MAIB are investing the incident.

On 27 September 2018, the Red Eagle, whilst departing East Cowes for Southampton in fog, entered Cowes Harbour’s small craft mooring area and hit a number of moored yachts, causing them to be ripped from their moorings. They were lated recovered.

The Cowes Harbour Commission has investigated this incident, and has announced it will also be looking into the circumstances surrounding the latest collision in Cowes Harbour.