Wednesday, 23 June 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
15. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the changes, if any, in regulations or procedures which are planned following the reports of the marine survey office into a recent fire and berthing incident involving the Stena HSS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16006/99]
Dr. Woods: The marine survey office of my Department has carried out investigations into both incidents involving the Stena Line HSS. The first incident occurred on 4 March when the vessel collided with a mooring dolphin while berthing in Dún Laoghaire Harbour. An immediate inspection of the damage to the vessel was carried out by officials from the marine survey office and temporary repairs were effected in order to ensure that it was safe for the vessel to proceed  to a port in the United Kingdom to have damage repaired. Following the damage caused by the berthing incident the UK authorities withdrew the vessel's passenger certificate until repairs were satisfactorily undertaken.
On 3 May 1999, a small fire occurred in lagging surrounding one of the vessel's engines as it approached Dún Laoghaire. The engine unit's alarm system detected the fire immediately, shut down the engine and the crew then operated the fire extinguisher system within the compartment. The deputy chief surveyor of the marine survey office boarded the vessel as soon as it was alongside in order to commence an initial investigation into the cause of the fire. Following this inspection, and after receiving assurances from the fire brigade that the fire was fully extinguished, the deputy chief surveyor was satisfied that it was safe for the vessel to return to service.
As the HSS is registered in the United Kingdom and is subject to regular inspection and survey by the UK authorities, any changes to regulations or procedures in the operation of the HSS vessel are a matter in the first instance for the UK authorities. The marine survey office is liaising with the UK authorities in this regard. The marine survey office of my Department fully apprised the maritime and coastguard agency in Liverpool of the incidents. The marine survey office also recommended that the design of the fendering arrangements at the berth be re-evaluated and this recommendation has now been brought to the attention of the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company.
It is my objective, in partnership with the company and the regulatory authorities in the United Kingdom where the vessel is registered, to ensure any lessons to be learned are implemented with a view to preventing a recurrence.
Dr. Woods: I went to observe the moorings at the time. The marine survey office has given its views on the moorings to the maritime and coastguard agency in Liverpool. It has also recommended that the design of the fendering arrangements be re-evaluated. This recommendation has also been brought to the attention of the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company. There was a problem with the design which was not anticipated. It was under control, but the damage which occurred was not anticipated and the design of the mooring dolphin is being seriously examined.
Mr. Finucane: After the incident on 4 March 1999, the Minister promised his Department would investigate the matter. When will this investigation be concluded? Are his officials satisfied that the mooring dolphin, which was designed by HSS Stena and approved by his surveyors, has been rectified and a similar situation should not occur again?
Dr. Woods: Yes. That was the outcome of the investigation from the point of view of the marine survey office. On observation, I realise how the accident occurred in high winds in circumstances which were not previously anticipated. They were excellent mooring dolphins but because of the way the vessel rode up and came down at a particular angle because of the wind and the waves, as is the case with any docking, it took off part of the mooring dolphin which fell and damaged one of the lower compartments of the vessel. That was always well contained but, nevertheless, that should not happen. The design is being re-examined on that basis.
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