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Health and safety

Expanded MAIB investigation reveals deep-seated problems with Wight Class vessel engines

29 April 2022

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published its full investigation into an August 2018 incident in which the Wightlink ferry Wight Sky suffered a catastrophic main engine failure as it prepared to enter the Lymington River on its regular crossing from Yarmouth, Isle of Wight.

This was the second such incident in less than a year, and there was a third in December 2018. On this occasion, the failed engine was a new build and had been in operation for just 389 hours.

Wight Sky was one of three Wight Class sister ferries, and after the third engine failure Wightlink withdrew them all from service. Following discussions between the ferry owner, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Lloyd’s Register, and the engine manufacturer Volvo Penta, a mitigation plan was put in place to enable the ferries to return to service.

Preliminary investigations found a history of engine failures across the Wight Class fleet dating back to 2010, and consequently, the scope of the investigation expanded to include all known failures. This led to a long and detailed technical investigation that comprised forensic examination and testing of five of the failed engines and their components, a full review of the vessels’ system design and operation, and the safety management, planned maintenance and condition monitoring procedures, together with manning and technical oversight.

In May 2019, the MAIB published an interim report of its initial findings, and the final report is now available at www.gov.uk. The main safety issues identified concerned the following:

  • insufficient technical oversight of the engines’ operating parameters
  • standards of maintenance management and quality control
  • engine component and auxiliary system design problems
  • a lack of clear ownership for engine maintenance and engine condition monitoring

The report notes that Wightlink Ltd and other stakeholders have taken several actions following their internal investigations and in response to recommendations made in previous MAIB reports. Since December 2018, the ferries have successfully operated without any catastrophic engine failures.

Recommendations aimed at addressing specific issues that remain unresolved by the actions already taken have been made to Wightlink Ltd, Volvo Penta, Lloyd’s Register and RK Marine Ltd.


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