Report into accident on the Thames calls on government to introduce limit



The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has once again called for the introduction of alcohol limits for leisure boaters in a report into an incident last year that saw an inebriated helmsman slam a RIB into the side of a Thames passenger boat.

The accident happened at 11.21pm on June 1, 2011 by Blackfriars Bridge in central London. The RIB, Morfil, a 6m Zodiac, was travelling “significantly” in excess of the 12-knot speed limit as it approached the only arch in the bridge open to boat traffic.

The ferry, Sun Clipper, was on the other side of the bridge travelling in the opposite direction. The RIB sped under the arch and directly into the path of the Thames Clippers boat, which was unable to take avoiding action due to the proximity of the bridge.

The RIB’s helmsman only swerved one to two seconds before the collision – not enough time to stop hitting the ferry. Both men on board, co-owners of the boat, were thrown into the water, and were picked up unharmed by the RNLI. One of the men was later transferred to hospital for observation.

It was noted by police at the time of the collision that the man piloting the RIB smelled of alcohol and his speech was slurred. He later failed a breathalyser test. It’s estimated that at the time of the collision the helmsman was twice over the legal alcohol limit for driving.

The driver has since been prosecuted by the Port of London Authority and pleaded guilty to the charge of navigating in a manner liable to injure or endanger persons and other vessels. He was fined £2,500, and ordered to pay costs of £3,366 with a victim surcharge of £15.

The accident has added significant weight to the MAIB’s campaign to get the government to enact legislation on alcohol limits for leisure boaters, which has been sitting on the statute books since 2003. The investigations body said it had recommended to the Department for Transport that the introduction of a national alcohol limit for leisure boaters be “expedited”.

“There have been at least 45 fatalities resulting from accidents to pleasure vessels over the last six years in which alcohol has been a contributory factor,” the MAIB said. “It was extremely fortunate that a further two fatalities did not result from this collision.”

Subscribe to the print version of MBY; subscribe to the digital version of MBY