Safety review call after skipper’s death on ferry

THE Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has issued several safety recommendations for passenger ferries following the tragic death of a skipper on board a west Cork ferry.

In its report published yesterday on the Ikom K ferry accident off Castletownbere in 2009, the MCIB recommended that the Transport Minister:

- Ensures effective enforcement of passenger ships’ manning regulations;

- Establishes a training requirement that will ensure that other crew members are able to undertake the duties of critical crew in an emergency;

- Establishes a medical fitness requirement for the skippers and crews of passenger vessels and passenger boats;

- Applies a Domestic Safety Management System to all passenger ships;

- And issues a Marine Notice which recommends that the location of emergency equipment on passenger vessels should be clearly indicated in a manner readily understood by non-seafaring persons.

The Ikom K, which operated scheduled services between Bere Island and the mainland, sailed from the slip at Beal Loch, Castletownbere, at around 4.35pm on May 27, last year.

There is a licence requirement that there be two crew on board.

But skipper Patrick Murphy was the only crew on board at the time.

There were six foot passengers — five were members of the Defence Forces.

The vessel was proceeding towards Bere Island when they noticed it took an unexpected sheer to starboard.

The vessel ran violently aground on the mainland, between the pontoon and Berehaven Golf Club, near the entrance to Beal Loch a short time later.

The passengers found Mr Murphy collapsed in the wheelhouse with no other crew member on board to take control of the vessel.

Although he had no experience of marine craft, one Defence Forces member took the wheel of the vessel. He tried unsuccessfully to raise the alarm using a distress beacon on the VHF radio, and others on board had difficulty finding flares.

The MCIB noted that the passengers could not have been expected to know how to operate marine radios, or where to find the vessel’s emergency equipment.

Mr Murphy was later pronounced dead on shore. A postmortem found he had suffered a heart attack.

The MCIB commended the nurse and military personnel, and the crew of the ferry Oileán na hÓige, which came to their aid, for their efforts to revive Mr Murphy, and for ensuring the safety of the vessel and her safe return to port.

Meanwhile, the MCIB also published its report into the drowning of Fechin Mulkerrins and Anthony Coohill while tending fishing pots in a currach off Aughris Point, Claddaghduff, Co Galway on April 21 last year.

Neither man was wearing a Personal Flotation Device.

The MCIB said a proper educational/promotion advertising campaign is urgently required to highlight this issue.

It recommended that where it is established that such vessels are designed to engage in fishing for profit, they must comply with the appropriate Code of Practice for Fishing Vessels.

And it also recommended that the Department of Transport examine the complex issues around the Recreational Craft Directive and how it applies to currachs which are used for recreational purposes.


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