From the TUC

Post-Zeebrugge ferry regulations to be scrapped

18 Jul 2014, By

In March 1987 the P&O ferry Herald of Free Enterprise sank outside Zeebrugge resulting in 188 deaths. An inquiry was held which led to a considerable number of safety improvements. Now, in another outbreak of deregulatory zeal, the Government want to remove some of these regulations.

It is not because this type of ferry no longer operates. There are 84 similar ferries flying the British flag. Nor is it because designs mean that the regulations are no longer needed, after all the regulations are not about ferry design but safety measures.

It is because the requirements are seen as being “red-tape” and a cost to business. As the regulations do not apply to ships operating in other countries, UK ships and those operating from UK ports have, in the words of the consultation document, “additional requirements” “which may be seen as gold-plating”. I honestly could not believe it when I saw this. Their justification for removing safety rules brought in after the Zeebrugge disaster is that they go beyond the requirements for ships operating in countries like the Philippines or Bangladesh.

So what are these requirements that they are trying to get rid of? One is that ships need watertight emergency lockers on the open deck that can be accessed if the ship capsizes. This is for things like axes, ladders etc. They do not claim that they are no longer of use, but are now “less likely” to be because “even if a situation occurred where the equipment could be used, it is unlikely that he degree of crew organisation necessary to make use of it could be maintained in the face of a catastrophic capsize”. They go on to say that they have been advised that a ship may sink too fast to use the equipment. This is honestly in their consultation document!

The other requirement is around weighing of cargo to make sure a ship is not over-loaded. Again the rational for getting rid of this is because it only applies to UK ships. Not because it is not a good idea.

In one of the most revealing parts of the consultation document it states that removing the regulations “does not mean that the emergency equipment lockers and the weighbridge facilities are never necessary, rather that it is believed that with the introduction of the later regulations that it should now be for the shipping companies, ports etc. to identify what they need rather than impose requirements through legislation.” So just leave it to the owners then. I am sure that makes us all feel safe.

Of all the pieces of stupid, dangerous, ideologically-driven, anti-regulatory, claptrap, this is up there along with the proposals to exempt the self-employed from the Health and Safety at Work Act.

To say that you want to remove safety regulations solely because other countries do not have them is just part of the dangerous and reckless race to the bottom that this government has excelled in. Instead it should be demanding that other countries introduce these standards and raise international requirements so we can prevent the huge toll of deaths from ferry disasters world-wide.

9 Responses to Post-Zeebrugge ferry regulations to be scrapped

  1. kareb
    Jul 29th 2014, 2:41 pm

    I noticed everything scrapped costs money. I think i see the snake in this patch of grass!
    Fed up with airports and the endless palava you get if you fly? Yeah, well, the ferry’s out an’ all!

  2. Dave Leonard
    Jul 29th 2014, 8:46 pm

    3 words Profit before Safety.

  3. Ken Usher
    Jul 29th 2014, 9:45 pm

    Some of us are old enough and still bright enough to remember that these regulations were introduced for a reason! So as to ensure such disasters never happened ever again!!
    The inquiry found that the company (Townsend Thorenson) was “riddled from top to bottom with a disease of sloppiness”.
    12 months later and a change of name to P&O Britain encountered the longest ever seafarers dispute!
    These proposals must be opposed by everyone who uses or may consider using ferries at some point in their lives!!!

  4. Brian Wright
    Jul 30th 2014, 10:43 am

    I was one of those seafarers who had to sail past the capsized Herald of Free Enterprise on a regular basis knowing that passengers and crew (some of whom were friends) were still missing. I was also one of those who went of strike, this was for safety reasons not for monetary gain.Lack of regulation and profit before safety contributed greatly to this tragedy.
    You only have to look at the recent ferry/liner tragedies from around the world to see why any tampering with the current regulations is tantamount to absolute lunacy.
    Great Britain has always prided itself on being a world leader on Health and safety so why would any sane person consider reducing our regulations to those countries who have an atrocious safety record. Profit, Profit, Profit not safety, Safety, Safety.
    I agree anyone who uses or plans to use a ferry should oppose these changes vigorously

  5. Stuart Grant
    Jul 30th 2014, 11:21 am

    Typical of the capitalist age we are now enduring. Passengers or are they customers are just financial units that only exist to be exploited. Safety is just an expense that reduces profits.
    The human race never learns, we go on making the same mistakes and this one will end in drowning’s and renewed recriminations leading to a call for regulation in the design and operation of Roll on Ferry’s! Madness.

  6. Colin Shirley
    Jul 30th 2014, 8:41 pm

    Did the government think this madness up themselves or has some representative of UK based ferry companies been lobbying the government for these changes?

  7. John Davidson
    Jul 30th 2014, 9:58 pm

    At the time of the disaster I was employed by a local authority as a member of the emergency planning team. In this capacity I was invited to attend a briefing given my local police force and the forensic team who carried out the identification and post mortems on the bodies as they were removed from upturned ferry. What a job they had. The presentation and the pictures shown to illustrate it have left many vivid memories to this day but it has not stopped me using ferries and cruise ships. Be more proactive in being more alert to safety onboard yourselves and where appropriate make sure the master is alerted. I do feel for the forensic teams doing a similar job on the bodies from The MH17 downing.

  8. William John Symcox
    Jul 31st 2014, 9:32 am

    As a seafarer for the majority of my life,I was at sea,and on the ferries both before,and after the safety regulations. I can categorically say that you do not want to go back to the way it was. This idea needs nipping in the bud now.

  9. Diane Tanner
    Jul 31st 2014, 6:38 pm

    I supported my husband in his decision to strike in 1987 because it was for safety reasons. I even went up and down the country speaking at union meetings to raise funds for the soup kitchens.
    I saw the devastation caused by the Herald disaster. The crews of other ferries thankful it wasnt them that night but fearful that they could be next.
    The surviving members of the crew did not abandon ship but stayed on board to assist with the rescue operation despite the terror and exhaustion they must have been suffering from themselves.
    Many more wouldve perished that night otherwise.
    British seafarers are the highest trained and skilled in the world yet these new regulations indicate that they are worthless and disposable.
    Nearly 200 people died on the Herald, so many families devasted by losing a loved one. Dont let their deaths be in vain.