P&O Ferry Loses Power Off Irish Coast
European Causeway, a ferry operated by P&O Ferries, lost power this afternoon drifting off the coast of Northern Ireland and causing a response by the local emergency services. While the vessel was ultimately able to travel under its own power to port, the incident was the latest embarrassment for P&O Ferries just as the company had been reporting that full service was restored on the route between Northern Ireland and Scotland.
A spokesperson for the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed that they had received an alert at mid-day that the European Causeway which had been approaching Larne, Northern Ireland was experiencing a “mechanical failure onboard.” Passengers told the media that the ship was proceeding normally and approximately 30 minutes from port when suddenly the lights went out and ship drifted to a stop approximately five miles from the Irish coast.
The MCA and Royal Navy Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) both reported responding to calls from the ferry. Three RNLI lifeboats were dispatched as well as a helicopter and tug from the ports of Larne and Belfast. In addition, Cunard Line’s cruise ship Queen Victoria was in the area and asked to standby. Passengers supplied the media with photos of the emergency response and large cruise ship off in the distance while they waited for updates from the captain of the ferry.
P&O Ferries, which has been vocal about safety during the current image crisis after the company fired its crews, confirmed the incident in a response to Tweets. They blamed it on a mechanical failure saying a full investigation would be undertaken once the vessel arrived in port.
Introduced in 2000, the 22-year-old ferry was built for the run between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Measuring 512 feet in length, the 20,000 gross ton vessel has a capacity of 412 passengers along with 375 trucks. Reports indicated that there were approximately 150 people aboard for today’s mid-day voyage. The vessel had recently been cited for 31 deficiencies in an inspection by the MCA which detained it in March for issues including an inability to deploy lifeboats and life rafts. The vessel was released from its detention on April 8.
After approximately two hours this afternoon, the vessel was able to again get underway. The MCA reported that the RNLI lifeboats and a tug escorted it to the pier where it was expected to unload normally. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), issued a brief statement calling the current incident “deeply concerning.” Yesterday, the union repeated a call for the government to take over all the services of P&O Ferries as part of its ongoing effort to have the 800 seafarers fired by the company resume their work.
P&O Ferries initially Tweeted an update saying “We regret that due to a technical difficulty the 16:00 sailing is canceled,” from Larne. They later canceled an additional evening sailing as well. The company was offering alternate travel with competitor Stena for anyone booked on the canceled sailings.