Lessons learned: Car deck of a ro-ro ferry can be a very hazardous environment

by 14, Oct, 2020Innovation


A lorry driver was waiting in his cab to disembark from a ro-ro ferry. Unaware of a car parked directly in front, the lorry driver started to move his vehicle forward before being instructed to do so by the ferry’s crew.

The lorry then struck the parked car, shunting it into the back of another car in the lane to the right.

The driver of the car in the lane to the right was returning to the vehicle at the time and her legs were trapped between the two cars.

In light of the situation, two crew arrived on scene and began to coordinate a response. The lorry driver was instructed to reverse to allow the two cars to be separated.

There was no-one in the car that had been shunted by the lorry, so the ferry’s crew attempted to push it to free the trapped car driver; however, the handbrake was still on and the car could not be moved.

A group of crew and passengers then lifted the car away and freed the trapped driver. She had sustained minor injuries and was taken to hospital as a precaution.

Lessons learned:

  • It is vital that drivers on ferry car decks move only when directed to do so by crew. In this case the lorry driver did not wait for a signal from the crew, but moved under his own initiative. With a mixture of vehicles and pedestrians in a restricted space, the car deck of a ro-ro ferry can be a very hazardous environment and crew direction is critically important for the safety of drivers and their vehicles.
  • It is equally important to ensure that there are no obstructions before moving a vehicle on a ferry’s car deck. The lorry driver moved his vehicle forward believing that there was no obstruction in his path. However, although the rest of the lane was clear, he had not seen the car parked directly in front as the height of the car
    and its close proximity meant it was within his forward blind spot. Any vehicle driver must check that there are no cars or passengers in front of them before moving off.
  • The decision to lift the car manually to free the trapped driver might have seemed the quickest way to resolve the situation, but it could easily have resulted in more injuries through the unplanned manual handling of a heavy object.
  • Although the car driver was trapped between the two cars and understandably distressed, she was not in any immediate danger. It might have been more appropriate to wait until the driver of the shunted car returned and could move the vehicle to free the trapped driver, or for a crew member to move the trapped driver’s car.

October 2020