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Poor on-shore co-ordination and defects in on-board equipment meant passengers had to wait up to 20 hours before being able to get off a ferry after a fire broke out, an accident report said today.
The roll-on, roll-off ferry Commodore Clipper was close to Portsmouth harbour when the fire started on the main vehicle deck on a crossing from Jersey.
But berthing at Portsmouth was "significantly delayed through ineffective co-ordination between shore agencies and because of equipment defects", the report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said.
The report went on: "Once alongside, the high density of cargo and constraints in the design of the vessel limited access to both fight the fire and to disembark the passengers.
"As a consequence, freight trailers had to be towed off the vessel before the fire could be extinguished. The last of the 62 passengers disembarked from the vessel nearly 20 hours after the fire started."
The incident, on the 14,000-tonne Bahamian-registered ferry, happened at 2.42am on June 16 last year. No-one was injured.
The MAIB said that no single person or organisation had responsibility for the whole incident. Organisations involved included the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Solent Coastguard and various Portsmouth harbour authorities.
The report went on: "All shared a common aim, but each had a different perspective on how this should be achieved and what the relative priorities were.
"There were conflicting risks that needed to be balanced, and each organisation relied on the others for advice and resources.
"It was evident, from the discussions during the incident, that a shared strategy was never agreed between all the parties and that a common understanding of the priorities was not reached until very late on."
The MAIB said the vessel managers and port authorities had taken a range of actions during the investigation "which should reduce the likelihood of a similar accident recurring, and improve their ability to respond to future emergencies".
The report added that the MCA had undertaken to implement a number of recommendations resulting from an internal review of its response to the incident.