Historic Waverley Steamer Hits Dock in Scotland Injuring Passengers

historic Waverley steamer has accident sending passengers to hospital
Waverley operating on excursions - file photo courtesy of Waverley Excursions

Published Sep 4, 2020 7:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

Scotland’s historic steamer the Waverley suffered a docking accident during one of its excursion trips yesterday, September 3. The accident sent some of her passengers to hospitals while the steamer was taken out of service just weeks after it had resumed sailing after a major overhaul.

According to the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), 213 passengers and 26 passengers were aboard for the excursion that departed Greenock, Scotland in the morning. The steamer was approaching the dock in Arran, an island off the west coast of Scotland on the Firth of Clyde when she hit the dock. Eyewitnesses and passengers aboard the steamer told the BBC that she was not stopping when she hit the dock causing passengers to fall.  

The MCA later reported that 24 passengers were taken away in ambulances to local hospitals. The most seriously injured were airlifted back to the mainland of Scotland. The remaining passengers were initially stranded on the island before arrangements were made for them to be transported back to the mainland of Scotland by special trip aboard a commercial ferry.

The last paddle steamer to be built in Scotland, construction on the historic ship began in 1945, but due to post World War II material shortages she was not launched till 1946. Her boilers were finally installed in 1947 and she entered service that summer. She operated till the early 1970s as a commercial ferry in Scotland and then briefly was in service offering a combination of excursion cruises along with her ferry service. In 1974, she was gifted to a preservation society and she spent the next decade operating cruises as the last operating paddle steamer.

The Waverley was rebuilt in the early 2000s restoring her to her 1940s styles and once again returned to service as an excursion steamer. However, in May 2019 the historic ship’s career was again threatened by a boiler failure. A public appeal raised over $3 million to replace her forty-year-old boilers. The refit project saw new boilers and electrical systems installed along with other areas of the vessel being refurbished. She entered drydock in the spring of 2020 and after delays including due to COVID-19 restrictions she completed sea trials in mid-August.  

The Waverley commenced her 2020 excursion cruises on August 22. The season was originally scheduled to last just two weeks but the operators had just announced plans to extend it into September.

The Waverley’s General Manager, Paul Semple, commented “We are delighted that Waverley is back in-service operating on the Clyde and carrying passengers. We are grateful to all those who supported our Boiler Refit Appeal in 2019 and helped ensure that Waverley lives on. Since we opened bookings demand for tickets has been high with several sailings now sold out. Waverley has a loyal customer base and we know many are keen to step aboard the rejuvenated steamship.”

An announcement posted on the steamer’s website today said, “Waverley’s 2020 season has now concluded following an incident at Brodick pier on 3rd September where the ship made heavy contact on berthing.” 

The steamer has a dented prow and the remains at the dock. She has suffered a number of previous incidents including a serve grounding that badly damaged her in 1977 as well as hitting a breakwater in 2009 and a similar accident hitting another dock in 2017.

The MCA was looking into the accident and reported that the Marine Accident Investigation Branch has been informed of the incident.

A video from Waverley Excurisons showing the historic ship sailing in 2018: