Fatal 37 knot cat ferry probe

Navigating officers aboard a super fast catamaran ferry which was motoring at 37 knots in thick fog were ‘continuously talking’ and failed to notice a fishing boat on their radar, resulting in a fatal collision.

An investigation into the accident last March between the Condor Vitesse and a French fishing boat in thick fog, found the vessels speed and talk on the bridge to be contributory factors.

The vessel which sails between Poole and the Channel Isles, sliced the whelk fisher Les Marquises in two and its skipper died in the accident in the English Channel on March 28.

The Condor Ferries vessel was travelling from St Helier, Jersey to St Malo in France with 194 passengers, 45 cars and 27 crew on board when the collision occurred.

A report by French marine accident investigation office the BEAmer, found the fast ferry was sailing at 37 knots, had not strengthened its lookouts and officers did not notice the fishing boat on the radar.

“In the wheelhouse almost continuous talking without any link with the watch-keeping, maintained an atmosphere not compatible with the necessary concentration to conduct a high speed craft in the fog,” said the report. “This behaviour, as well as the visibility are the causal factors of the accident.

“When Condor Vitesse approached the Minquiers waters, both officers did not detect two vessel echoes ahead on starboard, the first was a ship that would be passing at a hundred metres on starboard, the second was Les Marquises.”

Voice recordings from the bridge revealed the crew did not mention the radar blip that should have alerted them to the other vessel.

The fishing boats radar was on, without emitting any sound signals, and 42-year-old Frenchman Phillipe Le Saulnier, died while his two crew survived.

The captain of the Vitesse at the time was a 56-year-old Frenchman. It is not known if legal action will be taken.

Simon Edsall, managing director of Poole-based Condor Ferries, said: “Condor Ferries welcomes the publication of the BEAmer report into this tragic accident.

“This must be a difficult time for the family and friends of Phillipe Le Saulnier and our thoughts are with them.”

He said: “Whilst BEAmer published their report yesterday, there are still other marine and judicial investigations into the incident last March and we are mindful that it would be highly inappropriate to make any comment that might affect these.

“We also wish to respect the rights of others involved in those enquiries including the crew of Les Marquises and the crew onboard Condor Vitesse at the time of the incident.

“The Master and Chief Officer onboard Condor Vitesse on that day were relieved of their operational duties immediately after the incident. As stated in the report, Condor Ferries has co-operated with BEAmer during the preparation of their report and continues to co-operate with all ongoing inquiries,” he told the Bournemouth Echo.